Tribes and Our Role as a Writer

If you’ve been following my blog lately, you’ve probably read more about me than you have in a long time. While there’s a lot of reasons why I wanted to open up more, some of which will relate to my upcoming publications, there’s another one that I wanted to explain to you.

You see, even though we are all writers and we’re all different, there’s something interesting that happens when we write characters. By describing what a person looks like or what they’re interested in, we put them into buckets or categories without even realizing it. Geeks. Athletes. Artists. Musicians. Doctors. Reporters. Detectives. These keywords define our characters by placing them into tribes, but they can also limit them.

If you didn’t know me, what would you think if I told you I was a gamer? Or that I have performed a lot of occult research? Or that I enjoy cooking? Love yoga? Have a lot of business acumen? Now, what would you do if I were to tell you that I am of European descent? A woman?

Traditional psychology spells out for us that this is how our human minds naturally function. We need to put things into buckets in order to process, record and store information. Even within the geek culture, which has a reputation for embracing different types of people into its own tribe, there are groups within groups that create separate micro-tribes of people. If you look closely enough, you can see this effect in every organized and unorganized aspect of your life. After all, every business has its own culture or tribe. The same goes for volunteer organizations, too. Sure, you might argue that we are drawn to the tribes that we’d best fit into, but what if you’re not? Logistically, it’s impossible for you to fit the criteria of every tribe that you may be in contact with, because that criteria is often shaped by certain people within the tribe depending upon how long they’ve been involved with it and what they have to gain (or lose).

Over the years, I’ve talked to a lot of writers and editors about this idea and I’ve found that most of them feel the same way that I do. All too often, we may feel like outsiders or the alien one within any one tribe for a variety of different reasons. While being an outsider does suck, our role as the outsider allows us to communicate appropriately with other members of the tribe in order to tell them a story.

Today, how we view the outsider is a reflection of our modern, unforgiving culture. In olden times, the role of the storyteller fell on the shoulders of a traveling bard or performer, who was expected to a tribe in and of himself. It’s very challenging for most writers to naturally drift toward a tribe because we are self-aware in a way that automatically sets us apart, which can cause an endless amount of neuroses because there are one too many social stigmas about how wrong it is to be alone. Ever go out to dinner by yourself? When was the last time you treated yourself to a movie? Our culture is not geared for people who are social introverts, because our society is built to either repel the outsider or worship it. In a way, you could say that our culture doesn’t know what to do with an outsider, even though people automatically create them by separating others into tribes. I know I’m glossing over the social implications here, because sometimes the outsider is a very real or criminal threat. In this case I’m saying that the average guy on the street who goes to see a movie by himself might not have ulterior, criminal motives. He (or she) might just be lonely or they might have wanted to see a movie.

The funny part about writers, though, is that we have a different role to play than if we were a member of a tribe. By our very nature, we have to have some distance between ourselves and other people; otherwise we become homogenized and lose our unique perspective on the tribe. For this reason, I think this is why it’s so hard for people to be inclusive of other cultures, even when they’re intentionally thinking about it, because it’s counterintuitive to their natural instincts. Of course, many tribes make decisions just for the sake of attracting others like them because they know what to do with them. The more people (or the more popular) a particular tribe gets, the harder it will be for the tribe to remain as it is without changing. That, more than anything, is what I think freaks out most tribes. In many cases when a person doesn’t fit into a tribe, it’s because they don’t naturally fit into the group and not because they are somehow bad or good.

Of course, the role of the outsider doesn’t just apply to a writer. It simply describes “the other,” which is a natural by-product of human psychology. Not all things will fit into the same bucket, because we will find a way to separate them. The questions that I’m exploring right now are: How do I write a story for a tribe without automatically creating or punishing an outsider in the story arc? Is it even possible? Or should I avoid trying to be all-inclusive and focus my efforts solely on the tribe itself?

Guess you’ll just have to wait and find out.

Love My Nintendo DS and Square Enix

Blue Nintendo DSMany of you probably know that I’m a game designer in addition to being a writer. I haven’t designed any PC or console games yet. So far, I’ve worked on a lot of setting design for several games by Abstract Nova Entertainment in addition to various other assignments for the hobby games industry. As you might imagine, in order for me to design games and fulfill different assignments, I need to play them. I also like to sit down and play because I don’t have fun in a bar anymore. (That was a different, younger me.) Instead, I’ll fight boss battles and roll dice to have fun, sans hangover and drain on my pocketbook.

If you get me started on talking about video games, you’ll probably hear me regale you with sordid and adventurous tales of my efforts playing the Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts series created by Square Enix. I love Final Fantasy! I even put up with the massive amounts of leveling that’s often required to beat the game and get the special uber-weapon.

Final Fantasy IIIRight now I’m at the end of Final Fantasy III on the DS. I’m at level 53, got through five of the six boss battles that’s required to beat the game and then *poof* my characters encountered the dreaded mega-flare. So, I have to start the boss battles all over again. (I’m still a little whiny about that.)

Part of the reason why I like the Final Fantasy series is because it has great story elements. Most of the time, the story is very cohesive and has something for everyone — including romance. *coughs* Not Final Fantasy XII!!! *end cough* In Final Fantasy III, you play the Warriors of the Light who need to bring balance to the world because there’s too much darkness. As you progress through the story, you learn that previously there was too much light and the Warriors of the Dark needed to save the world from certain destruction in the past.

It’s no secret that I love to read about different cultures and world myths. I love the infusion of East Asian myth and philosophy that are infused into the games that Square Enix provides. (Not to mention, I am kind of a min/maxer and believe you me, these games facilitate that.) I’m hoping that one day the IP will open up and they’ll allow writers to pitch short stories or novels set in the world of Final Fantasy, because I’d love to write more stories about these characters. Not to mention, the soundtracks to these games are a-w-e-s-o-m-e.

The best part about my Nintendo DS, though, is that it offers more than just games. From recipe books to physical training and mind puzzles, whenever I get bored waiting at an appointment or just need to take a break, I can pop out my DS and play for a few minutes to take a break. It’s also a really nice way for me to get off the computer when I need to, so when I do get back online I can focus like I’ve never focused before.

Well, I suppose I should get back to writing. *cracks whip* How else will I feed my Final Fantasy addiction?!?!

My Guest Article at Innsmouth Free Press

Hi everyone,

Thought you’d be interested to find out that I wrote an article about the appeal of Cthulhu in gaming for Innsmouth Free Press, a Lovecraft-inspired webzine. Written with the casual gamer in mind, I list some horror games that I enjoy and talk about why the Cthulhu mythos is a great backdrop for a horror game.

For hobby gamers, the idea of losing your sanity while investigating the things that go bump in the world of Lovecraft has a strong appeal because it gives the characters a very tangible cost to uncovering the truth. — SOURCE: Cthulhu In Your Game at Innsmouth Free Press

If you’re interesting in gaming, I hope you drop by to read my article entitled Cthulhu In Your Game at Innsmouth Free Press.

Also, I’d like to mention that as part of our FlamesRising.com Cthulhu Week promotion, the publisher at Innsmouth Free press wrote a guest article for us entitled Cthulhu Week: A Note from the Editor at Innsmouth Free Press. Be sure to read this informative article written by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and find out more about their upcoming anthology.

Win a Copy of Cthulhu 101 at FlamesRising.com

Hi everyone,

As you know, one of the roles I have is Project Manager at the horror and dark fantasy webzine FlamesRising.com. This week we have launched a theme week to honor H.P. Lovecraft, whose birthday is on Friday. Lovecraft is considered to be one of the most influential horror authors on the genre from the twentieth century. In addition to the Cthulhu-related articles and reviews, Atomic Overmind Press is offering a contest for anyone interested in winning a copy of CTHULHU 101, which was a book written by Lovecraft expert Kenneth Hite.

Here’s a quote from our announcement:

We are pleased to announce that Atomic Overmind Press is a proud sponsor of Cthulhu Week. Artist Drew Pocza and Atomic Overmind lent us their graphic design talents for the week and we’re thrilled to worship this elder god through these great images.

In honor of Lovecraft’s birthday, Atomic Overmind Press is also giving away several copies of the award-winning book CTHULHU 101 through our site. This pocket-sized book is the perfect introduction to Cthulhu and we think will make a fun addition to your digital or physical library. –SOURCE: Cthulhu Week at FlamesRising.com

To win a copy of CTHULHU 101, visit the announcement for Cthulhu Week at FlamesRising.com and leave a comment.

If you’re remotely curious about Cthulhu or H.P. Lovecraft, or want to get someone else hooked on the mythos, this book is a perfect introduction. Ia, Ia!

Politics, Gaming, Feminism and Persona

When I first started my blogging presence, I knew I wanted to take a more professional tack on it because of my career goals. I had been using LiveJournal for years, but didn’t really start thinking about a persona until I landed a job at an SEO consulting firm. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was knee-deep in keyword research and learning how to use and implement Google Analytics.

My day job isn’t the only thing that affected my persona. If you’re following along, you also know that I have a background as a writer, musical performer, amateur artist and photographer and as a gamer. It’s no secret that my tastes run dark. I’d rather be fighting zombies in a game than worrying about running a fashion shop. (Although, I do love fashion. I blame the uniforms I was stuck in for eight years.) However, if I had to point to one thing that’s influenced how I portray myself online more than any other, it is looking at the business of writing and being a writer.

The reason why I’ve done that, is because I haven’t always had the best experiences in the professional world when I reveal my game designer and author side. Where I live, a lot of businesses are very, very conservative. As a female who loves genres and gaming, I have encountered some resistance in the professional world. Other women gamers have expressed their fear that I should “hide” those interests because of the rampant stereotypes associated with gamers. And yes, there have been a few instances where religious people have indicated I will be going to hell for my love of all things dark. Sadly, I am not the only one who has encountered that attitude, either.

Striking a balance between a job and my creative endeavors has been a challenge, because I’m the type of person who is very passionate about almost everything that I do. Fortunately, I am now finding myself in a place where I can relax about some of these things, because I’ve been able to develop enough relationships with other people that the stereotypes don’t even enter their minds.

In many ways, these are the reasons why I’ve “held back” talking about some of the things that define me. Now, I’m getting to the point where I can’t do that and expect growth. There are a lot of people who have told me, once they hear what I want to do with my work and the profits thereof, that I need to focus on my own promotion. In order to do that, though, I have to balance my other need – to help other creative professionals learn business. Fortunately, there is a way for me to do that. Several people have approached me to start teaching workshops, and that is something I will be experimenting with.

Growing pains are a good thing, but they are also uncomfortable for me. At some point, I know I will have to express things that are uncomfortable for me to talk about. I don’t “want” to go in-depth into politics or feminism, but I feel that I have to with some topics, just so you understand where I’m coming from. Mind you, many of these subjects come up on panels and whatnot, too. A five minute discussion in a public forum is not enough time for me to discuss my personal views, but it is just long enough to leave an impression in your mind. Sometimes, that’s going to be a good impression, and sometimes that’s not. Unfortunately, that means that the minute I start discussing what my views are some people are going to be turned off by that. I’ve come to that crushing realization that not only can’t I please everyone, but everyone is not a potential reader. I would love to be a generalist to reach more readers, but based on who I am and what my beliefs are, that may not be the case. But what do I know? Still have to go on the journey, no matter how much trepidation I might have.

Right now, those impressions don’t matter as much just because many of you are probably not familiar with my writing or game design. Public figures who already have a persona often get more leeway when they talk about politics or feminism because there’s enough people out there who will still buy their books, watch their movies or listen to their concerts. I’m nowhere near to that yet, which is both good and bad. I have a lot more freedom to make mistakes than a public figure might, but I also have to keep that professional appearance in check because of my career and the work that I do.

Regardless of what happens from here on out, I feel that this part of my life is something that I want to share with you because I know that many of you are in the same boat that I am. If anything, I hope that you keep in mind that I am always open to other people’s opinions provided that you don’t present them as an absolute. Just like there isn’t one path to becoming a published author, there definitely isn’t one way to be.

If there was, I sure as hell wouldn’t have anything to write about.

🙂

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