Monday, September 17, 2012

Things that were not automatic

I am at the point now where I go a little crazy. I’ve been here for a few days.  It happens with every writing project as you get closer to the end, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but the rate at which said light gets closer is not everything you hoped for. I get a little antsy, but I still need to spend time with my family, and fulfill my church responsibilities, and blog (yes it feels like something I need to do), and work too.

I have written about how some things you just know automatically, and some you feel your way towards, but there are also conscious decisions that you make, and there were two things that I specifically worried about, and both of them ended up making things better, and in both cases it was because it led to better characters.

Timing was helpful. With the movie of The Hunger Games coming out, there was some controversy over some of the actors who were cast being of color. The most disturbing part was the objections of some to Rue being black, and at least one comment that it made her death less sad. I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, so I have no personal stake in how any of the characters looked, but I care a lot about that kind of ignorant racist garbage. I know it was probably a minority of the fans, but it shouldn’t have happened at all.

You have to take a lesson from things, though, so it reminded me of other things that I have read about exclusion of minorities in casting, and how seeing positive images is important, and just of how easy it is when you are white to just picture everyone else as that, and I wasn’t going to go down that road. I wanted there to be people of color, and minor characters began springing to life.

A lot of the richness from any work comes from the minor characters. The main characters can’t necessarily be altered from the original vision, but if they are surrounded by cardboard characters or if they are surrounded by people who seem just as real,  even if they do not figure as prominently in the main story, then that’s good.

Taking that extra thought made these characters become more.  There was going to be someone in Natalia’s place, but once she became Hispanic she had a look and a personality, and I knew what she was wearing, because apparently I care about clothes now. I don’t think anything in Harry’s personality is stereotypically Asian, so I don’t think it was making him Asian that made him who he was, but I think taking a second look maybe did do it.

Also, it ended up being kind of comforting for me. I was still really upset over the Trayvon Martin shooting. (I’m not exactly unupset about it now, but it was still pretty raw then.) So, we ended up with a black teenage boy. I couldn’t name him Trayvon, because that was too close, but I gave him Aaron’s middle name, which is Latron, and he is someone who lives, and will be fine, and as corny as that may seem, it helped.

One other thing was very important, and a huge risk in any kind of fan fiction: I did not want Jane to become a Mary Sue.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_sue

This was actually a fairly new concept to me, because I first heard the term when some people were discussing whether Daenerys in Game of Thrones is or not. I have no idea about Daenerys (haven’t read or watched that either), but I understood the concept instantly. They mean when the character is the most special special that ever specialed.

The references to Wesley Crusher are appropriate. I remember an episode where he tried out for admission to a training program at the Academy, and he excelled in every test, schooled the guy who eventually beat him, charmed the girl, and then just was turned down but was very close. Okay, I get that if you want him on the show you can’t send him away to Academy, but then don’t make him so perfect that it makes no sense that someone else is selected. It’s common sense.

In retrospect, I think you could apply the term to Nancy Drew, too, although given how she was naturally good at everything and always outsmarting everyone, it was odd how often she needed to be rescued.

Anyway, I had just seen a Danger Days fan fiction where just in the opening the word “special” was used three times in reference to the main character, and okay, teenagers need to go through this, we covered that, but I should be past it. After all, just starting out Jane has medic training, rides a motorcycle, and has limited psychic abilities. Also, Gerard loves her, and even though it is not really Gerard, I think that still carries some serious cachet. What to do?

Well, a lot of it went back to the supporting characters. If someone should be trying to get plants started, and be nurturing life, that doesn’t have to be Jane. Otis can do it. (And it does not make him a magical black man.) If someone needs to start a tradition of consideration and gift-giving, that can be Lastri. (And hey, she’s Indonesian. She’s probably Muslim, and still a good person!) Jane does not need to be the one coming up with plans and strategies. Other people can do that.

And again, it made those characters better. They became more interesting and more distinct and more real. Suddenly I would realize what someone’s job background had been, and how they ended up in the Zones. A lot of it seems like you are just channeling, but you are the one constructing the channels.

Still, for things that you just don’t have any control over, there was something worth noting about the deaths. There was no way to keep Ray and Mikey alive, because the Jet Start and Kobra Kid track had them dead on Route Guano, and it not only killed them but it created a pretty solid image of how it happened. There is no track explaining it, but it was nonetheless clear that Gerard was going to die, and how and when. But somehow, nothing ever killed Frank.

One thing that I read on comments for “Save Yourself I’ll Hold Them Back” is that it is Gerard to Frank. Ray and Mikey are already gone, so the heart attack in black hair dye is the only person left who can make Gerard cry, and so he will sacrifice himself for Frank. Well, that’s totally not how I heard it, and not how I have it going down. Also while I am sure that Gerard would sacrifice himself to save Frank, I am not sure that Frank would let him. Regardless, maybe I don’t even know. Maybe there was something in the song that reached out to me and said “Frank must live!”

After all, who am I to question the power of Frerard?

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