A World Ends… NOT!

Galactic Starry Space

I’m in stealth mode yet again today because I’ve had my fill of emotional roller-coaster rides brought to you courtesy of Facebook, Twitter, and the news. I love to read history; it’s fuel for characters, true… but I’m of the mind that old adage “truth is stranger than fiction” is eerily accurate. Supposedly, the world ends to-day. Hogwash and horsepuckey. (EDIT: Okay, I lied. I wrote this earlier in the week, and I had not one but TWO new release announcements that dropped on my head! So yeah, I did get back online to promote. And then got distracted by all the celebratory shenanigans…)

The next time you believe that we are somehow smarter and more sophisticated than our historic predecessors, remember the following:

  • NASA campaigned to educate folks on why the world is not, in fact, ending. [link] and another here to a myth-debunking article on Yahoo! [link]
  • The belief in the Mayan “Apocalypse” is not world-wide; this is a predominantly Western myth. What we encounter here in our culture is a fraction of what’s experienced elsewhere.
  • Remember Y2K??? — and we’re still kicking!
  • For every major date, milestone, and turn-of-the-century, there have been (and will be) a group of people who believes the world will end. That could be on a small scale, like a religious organization or cult, or on a larger, social scale. The spread of these beliefs will continue to evolve the more connected we become.
  • If you were born before 1999 and are still alive today, then you’ve experienced not one, but TWO of these purported major “end times” dates.

In addition to his performances, Houdini spent his life dedicated to debunking spiritualists. I could easily do the same with respect to the paranormal and the end times — but there is no modern-day need for that. Others, like Mythbusters, have already taken up that call. There will always be rumor and conjecture. I simply choose to err on the side of research. *shrugs* What can I say? Reading is fundamental. Education is crucial.

(Yeah, this post got a little more lecture-y than I was aiming for… Um… Go “End Times!” Okay, that didn’t work either. Hmm… A CafePress store capitalizing on the survival of yet another fakepocalypse? Am I that evil? No time. Ah well. Guess I’m better off pouring my energies into another story. Gee, how should the world end this time? So many options to choose from. So many…)

Annnnnnnnd as long as I’m committing all kinds of bloggery faux pas, I’m providing you with another reminder that the apocalyptic anthology We Are Dust was released this week. READ IT BEFORE THE WORLD ENDS!

    Mood: contemplative with a blend of listening and wondering
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Well, it was epic. I must admit.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Werk it gut
    In My Ears: Adele
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Awakenings
    Movie Last Viewed: The Hobbit
    Latest Artistic Project: Holiday gifts
    Latest Release: “The Button” We Are Dust anthology

On the Subject of Insecurity and Writing

I’m writing this post today from my soapbox. Someone pushed a button, you see, a very large, red “DO NOT EVER PUSH” button, and writing this down is cathartic. So why am I sharing it?

Well, because I know I’m not alone. Every time I talk about this (or vent) to some other creative professional they understand. So here goes… (Wish me luck!)

There is a difference between being insecure as a person and being insecure about your writing. There is also a difference between being insecure about your writing and being insecure about what other people say about your writing.

Insecurity is, unfortunately, part of the writer’s journey and it can be an incredibly crappy thing to deal with. Doesn’t matter if you write non-fiction, fiction, gaming narratives, screenplays, commercials — whatever. You may be proud of something, until someone else gets their hands on it. A reviewer. A professor. An editor. A peer.

Some criticism is necessary to make the project better. This? This I’m okay with because a good editor is a diamond in the rough. A good editor will help you look your best — and who wouldn’t want that?

The worse, it seems, can come from others within the community or avid readers who prefer one thing but not another. Genre isn’t as good as literary fiction. Speculative fiction is better than science fiction. Non-fiction is good, but only if you’re accredited with the experience and knowledge to write it. Winning an award is good, but only if you win X award. Marketing copy can only be written if you follow the school of thought from X luminary. You’re not a real author until you get optioned for a movie. In order to be considered a serious author, you need to have X amount of books out. You have to be published by New York or you’re nothing. Small press publishers are just amateurs begging for money. Editors are frustrated writers. If you don’t make X amount a year, you’re not really serious about writing. If you can’t write a story on the first try, then you’re a bad writer.

And so on… And so forth… And so on…

I’ve been through enough rounds of feedback to know the difference between valid criticism and snarky comments. Both exist. Both have to be handled graciously or it may backfire. I’ve been back online for less than two weeks, and now I’m noticing other people’s hypersensitivity. Criticizing a tweet or a Facebook update. Correcting someone on semantics without understanding their meaning. (I call this the curse of “Well, actually!”)

What is this crap? It’s meaningless b.s. that taps into some insecurity on some level — but it’s about as useful as a giving a beer to an alcoholic. The worst part about this (which is where the button-pushing comes into play) is that often these comments are not meant maliciously. (Yes, there are some that are…) Most of the time, though, it’s because the person making the comment is damn insecure about their work, you see, and they’re looking for validation by reminding themselves what they don’t like about yours.

If you want to know what drives me to write better, to be a better person, to seek out new opportunities and deliver the finest product I can — this is part of that reason. I compete against myself every day not because I’m insecure about my work, but because I will never have written, polished or delivered “enough” quality stories and games. I have had a love-hate relationship with my creative side my whole life, because it took me a long time to find my tribe. You know what I’m talking about. People that will cheer and read everything you publish because they enjoy it that much. A support group. Haven’t hit the proverbial thousand fans yet, but whether it takes ten years or twenty — I’m not going to stop just because someone says I’m nobody or thinks I’m not important enough. To them? Sure. But not to me.

Yes, I may idealize the concept of community but the alternative? To be bitter or a drama queen or whatever? I don’t have time for that. I really, really don’t. In a world rife with criticism and negativity, I would much rather compliment and uplift than talk about how great I am and how sh*tty everyone else is. That is not how I roll.

In the end, I feel we have forgotten that words — on or off the page — have power. We forget that there is another person on the end of that line. That author? May have the same exact hopes and dreams and wishes that we do. How would you feel if you told someone their work was crappy because it didn’t get published according to your standards? Sometimes, all it takes is for a smile or a kind word to make someone’s day. To me? That’s power to be used responsibly. For writers, words are everything.

And with that, I step (carefully) off my soapbox and tell another story. May yours be everything you’ve ever dreamed them to be. And I sincerely and deeply wish that you reap the successes you deserve.

I’ve got a hell of a lot of writing to do and, quite frankly, I’m okay with that. I am loving this manuscript and I know someone else will, too.

How to Infuse your Creativity by Researching Tropes, Myths and Beliefs

As promised, I’d like to give you all a little exercise that my fantasy author friends might appreciate and immediately recognize. This is an example of how I do my research, and I’m offering it to you to put more questions in your mind than answers, to challenge not only what you write—but how.

For those of you who are familiar with research methods, you will notice that some of the steps are out of order. For my own work and curiosity, it has become necessary to formulate my hypothesis after I read my source material to reduce personal slant and remain objective.

Research Exercise: Avoiding a Common Trope in Your Setting

Step One: Identify your Intent

Create a dark-skinned race of characters that do not adhere to the common fantasy trope: all dark-skinned characters are primitive, barbaric, or villainous.

Step Two: Recognize Potential Sources of the Belief or Trope

Specific to fantasy there might be: Dungeons and Dragons, Tolkien’s the Lord of the Rings, or Conan the Barbarian. In this area, I would also recognize the need to read history or other nonfiction source material.

Step Three: Investigate a Major Influence for the Belief or Trope

Tolkien is often considered the father of fantasy and, in fact, heavily influenced early Dungeons and Dragons.

Step Four: Create a List of Author Influences

In this bucket, I sometimes either write down or note a variety of things about the author. For example: When was the book written? Where did the author hail from? How did the author create the trope or belief? Was the trope intentional? Did the writer have any prevalent or outspoken beliefs?

Step Five: Formulate your Opinion

Here is where you, the author, come into play. In this really basic example, you’ve done your homework to pinpoint what you believe is the reason why this trope was created and where it came from. Knowing those two things can really help you engineer other ways to avoid the trope or realistically portray a belief.

Step Six: Read Others’ Opinions

When appropriate, it might be a good idea to read other people’s opinions when appropriate. Literary criticism might be a great resource in this example or even commentaries from other writers. This step ends up becoming more important if you’re researching the origin of Halloween, for example, or myths and legends that cross time, cultures or countries.

Step Seven: Return to Your Original Goal

As the last step in the process, I recommend circling back to your goal and writing one paragraph to complete your thoughts. Sometimes, the act of writing down how you’d like to infuse your story with that different perspective can make all the difference.

What process do you use to marry research elements with your work? How do you manage collective thoughts and creativity into your projects? If you have other methods you use, feel free to share! Happy scribing!

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.


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