Enjoy a Two-Part Deep Dive about Magic and Motherhood in The Witcher

Netflix’s adaptation of The Witcher debuted in December 2019 and has been met with both criticism and accolades. If you’re not already aware, the events in The Witcher Season One are presented as a time-hopping origin story, or braided narrative, for three characters: Yennefer of Vengerberg, Geralt of Rivia, and Ciri of Cintra. The character arcs and setting material were drawn from short stories published in two collections written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski “Sword of Destiny” (1992) and “The Last Wish” (1993), which predate the video games.

I had a lot of fun with Geralt of Rivia and monster hunting as a fan, but wanted to dive deeply into an aspect of the worldbuilding and narrative from a creator’s and setting adaptor’s POV. In Magic and Motherhood in The Witcher: Part One now available on FlamesRising.com, I examined the magic and magical systems present in The Witcher. In Magic and Motherhood in The Witcher: Part Two, I dove into motherhood and fertility which serve as examples of how magic is implemented and commented upon in this setting.

Enjoy this deep dive into a pop culture phenomenon!

FFS, Writers. Encouraging Shame and Guilt Hurts More than Helps.

We all write for different reasons, but behind that reasoning is a complex web of emotions that motivates us. No matter how much fiction might depict iconic heroes who think more clearly because they’re stoic or focused on logic, the truth is that we’re rationalizing (rather than rational) creatures. The idea that we must and should write every day or write a certain word count every month generates negative emotions like shame and guilt when those targets aren’t met. Negative emotions impact our ability to rationalize, because they can easily lead to distorted judgments of our self-worth which introduces a host of other issues that interferes with the work.

Some people are motivated to create because shame and guilt forces them to show up and prove someone (or the Universe) wrong. I would argue this type of motivation is temporary and not sustainable, because you’re tying a lot of negativity to your creative process which can lead to procrastination. A lot of writers (including myself) aren’t motivated to produce because we feel ashamed. Shame and guilt often lead to a barrage of self-flagellating, punitive thoughts for things outside of our control that do everything from muck up our routine to negatively impact how many copies we sell. The judgments and vast amount of “You should…” leads to gatekeeping and a host of assumptions that everyone has the same body, mind, and circumstances to share a similar process–which is a lie. They also exist for understandable reasons; we naturally want to share advice and position ourselves as experts so people take us seriously. The trouble with that, however, is that there isn’t “one way” to write or tell a story. So much of writing advice should be treated as a tool rather than an absolute, because there isn’t a magical solution to get words down on the page or finish a manuscript. Writing is something you have to make room for and do by yourself.

Instead of spending time focusing on more valuable traits like resilience or persistence, shame morphs the reasons why goals weren’t met into judgments of self-worth. We’re not “real writers” unless we do X, Y, Z. I still get accusations of this. Mind you, sometimes finding the reason “why” we didn’t write or couldn’t finish a thing is valuable–but that can also be incredibly punitive. Sometimes, a bad day is just a bad day and there’s nothing more that needs to be discovered, analyzed, or said. What’s more: it’s okay to have a bad day. If you’re reading this and thinking: “Oh, no… That can’t be right…” Consider where your motivation to write comes from. Consider that you are tying your self-worth to your productivity. That leads to a litany of issues–especially when you can’t produce or when the reception of your work doesn’t match your expectations. We are not typing monkeys. We are human beings who have lives and sometimes? Shit happens.

You are more valuable than your word count. Being a storyteller does not mean you “must” do anything–other than tell stories in your time, in your way, for your process (or business model). How you do that? When you do that? None of that should matter to anyone but you, and thought it is hard you can build and be part of communities if your experiences are different. Your process is yours to manage, develop, and take ownership of and no one else has the right to judge you for your life’s choices. Writing every day is a breakable rule as Tempest Bradford pointed out. In fact, every “rule” is breakable. You simply write until you internalize your craft–even then, your process could change from project to project. That doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong because you have a different process or you’re a bad writer because you need help.

As a friend once told me, trust yourself. Your story can only be told by one person: you. Enjoy the journey. Each of ours is different, and sometimes our destinations are, too! Good luck!

What Writers Can Learn from Netflix’s Unbelievable

Hello readers,

I’m going to be at the RadCon science fiction and fantasy convention in Pasco, Washington later this week, but I wanted to pop in with a writing-related post before I head out.

A few weeks ago, I watched Netflix’s Unbelievable. It’s a dramatization of what happened to Marie Adler and a parallel investigation tracking a serial predator conducted by two female detectives. It is their work that led to her attacker’s arrest.

This was a very hard show to watch, but I powered through it because I wanted Marie to have a happy ending. Unlike fiction, this is a dramatization of real events. Someone named Marie was a victim who wasn’t believed. Someone named Marie was coerced into saying she lied about her assault. And someone named Marie suffered greatly for it. What can we, as writers, take from this show? Unbelievable highlighted a very important fact: not everyone responds to trauma in the same way. Now, I’m of the mind that no, you do not have to experience trauma to accurately relay what that’s like on the page. But, we as writers do need to recognize that there is a spectrum of emotions and reactions involved affected by your identity and the circumstances of your life.

In fiction, I sometimes think we’re so focused on what the stakes are in the story big-picture wise, we forget that the consequences of a character experiencing so many traumatic experiences impact their day-to-day life, too. Some characters are going to get quiet, like Marie, because they just want to forget and get on with life. Others want to maintain what they have, because a lack of change means the illusion of stability despite how “good” or “bad” their lives currently are. Others might worry about how they impact other people around them. Are they revealing too much emotionally? Not enough? If others respond poorly when they open up, the protagonist won’t necessarily shut down. Sometimes, they get angry. Sometimes, they walk away entirely.

Trauma in fictional narratives can also be challenging to present because the main character often needs to overcome these experiences in order to move forward with their unrelated goals. It is very easy for the effects of trauma to eclipse a character’s arc, because the process to heal can take a long time (even with help). Overcoming trauma quickly doesn’t always happen in real life as neatly as it might in a narrative. Sometimes, characters freeze up at odd moments because they’re triggered and they’re having a flashback—a technique that’s explored in Locke and Key. I won’t spoil how Kinsey overcomes her trauma other than to say that she does, while her brother Tyler deals with his emotions in a very different way.

My suggestion when you’re writing about a character who’s been traumatized is to weigh the protagonist’s health while thinking how they impact the world and the other characters around them. In most cases, I would also treat healing from trauma as a process rather than an explicit goal. Your emotional character arc could be focused around healing and learning coping mechanisms. Trauma is a big subject to tackle, and are a lot of questions you can ask yourself. I’ll list some of them here for your benefit:

1) What’s your protagonist’s background? How does this contribute to their day-to-day activities before and after the trauma?

2) Take a look at your supporting characters. Is there an opportunity to show a moment of empathy because one of them experienced something similar? Or support while emphasizing they don’t know how to help?

3) How has your protagonist’s health (emotional, mental, physical) been affected?

4) Do your protagonist’s primary goals change after the experience? Why or why not?

5) How does your protagonist behave differently after they’ve experienced trauma? What elements help them feel better/worse? What coping mechanisms do they learn?

Again, I want to emphasize that trauma is not a light or an easy subject to address. My point here, especially after watching Unbelievable, is that the aftermath of a traumatic incident doesn’t generate a static list of goals, behavioral traits, and events your character must experience. The aftermath of trauma is the start of a healing journey. Just as no two bodies are exactly alike, no two journeys are, either.



Thank You Fans of Hunter The Vigil Second Edition!

Hunter The Vigil Second Edition Logo As I write this (after what’s been an emotional two days) I have to giggle. I left my office just before dinner last night; when I came back upstairs this morning, I realized I’d left a lone candle burning in the darkness. I’m on theme!

The Hunter: The Vigil Second Edition Kickstarter funded quickly, and we’re well on our way to achieving stretch goals. We’re also on the cusp of debuting the compacts and conspiracies in the corebook, too, and many of you are already digging into the lore. Rules to create the compacts, conspiracies, and their Endowments are present in the Storyteller’s chapter. If you don’t see a hunter group you want to play, you’re encouraged to create one of your own. There is room for you and your approach to the Vigil. We all uphold the Vigil the way we feel is best, but that doesn’t mean our approach is the right one–or that hunter groups are monoliths. Ahhhhhh! There’s so much more to come!

Of all the games I’ve worked on, Hunter: The Vigil Second Edition means a lot to me because it’s a game I can see myself playing. Chronicles can be focused on hunting the monster-of-the-week just as easily as they could explore the nuances of a conspiracy’s political structure or an initiative to search for Bygones. I want that feeling for you, too, and hope you’re inspired to draw from movies or shows you like (or even your own background and culture) to hunt monsters in your backyard.

Thank you again for supporting Hunter: The Vigil Second Edition on Kickstarter. Keep those candles lit!

On Writing for Comfort (And Why It Matters)

Hiya,

I just wrapped up another installment for a really fun-to-me project. The story is for a younger audience and I can’t wait to tell you more about it. Part of the reason why I loved this process so much, is because I enjoy worldbuilding to create that sense of wonder and whimsy. The stakes aren’t life or death, either, which is a big change and a welcome relief from the “Oh gods, oh gods, we’re all going to die!” stories and games I often pen.

Why do comfort stories matter? Stories written for comfort create safe emotional spaces. These are places our minds and hearts can go to rest from whatever is happening in our corner of the world. I strongly believe these books are not just for children. We all need a reprieve from time to time and reading a comfort story can be an act of self-care. Comfort stories can take different shapes, too, and aren’t always about obstacles that need to be overcome with violence. Those obstacles can be puzzles or misunderstandings that need to be worked out instead of a solution that can only be resolved by grabbing the biggest hammer you can find.

Some of my favorite comfort authors include Terry Pratchett, for his biting wit and commentary embedded in a gentle narrative style even when the fate of the universe is at stake, and Diana Wynne Jones who wrote several books including Howl’s Moving Castle which was adapted to a full-length animated film and produced by Studio Ghibli. Many comfort stories offer kids the ability to see themselves as the heroes in fantastic or everyday environments. Children’s books are so important in any timeline, in a world fraught with uncertainty and meanness they gift kids with the one thing we all need from time to time: hope.

What about you? Do you have any comfort stories you like to read? Any authors you’d like to recommend? Please share!

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