NVDT #68 – Bonanza, Polti and Tolkien   Leave a comment

Not Very Deep Thoughts

PART OF OPEN BOOK BLOG HOP

Prompt – Every story starts with a stranger in town or a journey. “Pa, we’re takin’ the wagon to Virginia City.” Every story ends with “Golly gee, Wally. I thought we were goners.” True or False?

Yes, and yes/no. Regardless of whether you write milieu, idea, character or event, even deep stream of consciousness or “slice of life” stories in any of Polti’s 36 plot forms, they all have an inciting incident. A person or an event wakes up, encounters someone or something else. Spending a moment in time with a character or an event is to cover (for lack of a proper pronoun) “its” journey.

The “Golly gee, Wally I thought we were goners” only applies as denouement. If the conflict is resolved without dusting up, then that line might read –

Alix dropped the pistol on Yannick’s body when she stepped…

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Posted November 30, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Open Book Blog Hop – 30th November   2 comments

Stevie Turner

Welcome to this week’s ‘Open Book Blog Hop‘. Here’s the topic for today:

‘Every story starts with a stranger in town or a journey. “Pa, we’re takin’ the wagon to Virginia City,” and every story ends with “Golly gee, Wally. I thought we were goners.” True or False?’

Wally and his father get in the wagon at the start of the book and begin their journey to Virginia City. On the way they might meet a tribe of Red Indians, the wheel of their wagon might fall off, their horse might die, or Wally might succumb to a wagon full of ‘ladies of dubious morals’ on the trail and catch a dose of something nasty.

All these things happen as the book unfolds. The reader follows the story from the wagon setting off at the beginning right through to the end and its arrival in Virginia City, now…

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Posted November 30, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

There’s a Stranger in Town #OpenBook Blog Hop   Leave a comment

PJ McLayne’s Blog Article

Source: There’s a Stranger in Town #OpenBook Blog Hop

Posted November 30, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Bring on the Tropes   12 comments

Every story starts with a stranger in town or a journey. “Pa, we’re takin’ the wagon to Virginian City,” every story ends with “Golly gee, Wally. I thought we were goners.” True or False?

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Tolstoy Said

“All great literature is one of two stories; a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.”

I love Tolstoy’s stories, but do I agree with his observation?

Yes

Tolstoy isn’t the only literary giant to make the observation that, it seemed to them, all stories fall into one of two categories: “stranger in a strange land” or “a stranger comes to town.”

We’re all familiar with Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” as represented in the journeys of Odysseus or Luke Skywalker. It’s so common that we hardly even notice it. A stranger passing through a land that is new to him encounters events that change him. In our traveling world today, we know this to be true because we’ve all experienced that transition wrought by new experiences, but the same held true from ancient times and the best storytellers borrow from real life to make compelling fiction. When I think about it, my series Daermad Cycle starts out as a stranger in a strange land tale. Although Padraig was raised in Celdrya, he’s been gone a long time and he sees the culture with new eyes. The journey is a common theme of many tales.

Likewise, the “stranger comes to town” trope has been around at least since Tolstoy, which for most of us is more than our lifetime. It’s the basis of every one of Clint Eastwood’s “Spaghetti” westerns. A stranger comes to town and something happens. It’s place based – a group of inhabitants who all know one another and an unknown character coming to town. That new element is the basis of conflict and the catalyst for change. Think “Our Town” or “The Man from Snowy River”.

Sometimes the “stranger” isn’t a person, but a force. In Transformation Project, the catalyst for change is societal chaos and the people of Emmaus are the group that is changed by it.

Sometimes the stranger is not a catalyst, but a a neutral observer viewing the activities of the static group, as in “The Scarlet Letter.” Or, in “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, Scout is not a catalyst for change, but an observer of change. There’s dozens of variations on this trope that could go anywhere. All of them will lead to character development, conflict, gain and/or loss, change and a conclusion. The outside element changing a static group is rich fodder for fiction writers.

But

I know for a fact that I’ve read and written stories about people who already know one another in a community they’re all familiar with, which suggests Tolstoy’s observation is at least partially wrong. The two tropes work because they are used all the time, but they’re not the only story patterns used.

“My prettiest contribution to my culture,” the writer Kurt Vonnegut mused in his 1981 autobiography Palm Sunday, “was a master’s thesis in anthropology which was rejected by the University of Chicago a long time ago.”

He moved on to become a great writer who mapped many popular storylines along a simple graph. He did a lecture that you can find on YouTube. I’m not going to explain it all, but he felt the most interesting story type he encountered was represented by the fairytale Cinderella. He thought of it as a staircase where Cinderella climbed into good fortune after her fairy godmother arrived. The high point was the ball and then she plummeted back into poverty and degradation, only to be rescued from darkness and brought to glory by her dashing prince.

It’s a “Rags to Riches” tale. It doesn’t involve a journey and nobody is exactly a stranger in town. Though they might not know each other before the ball, Cinderella lives within sight of the castle and the prince might have ridden by her home a few times.

I ran across a statistic claiming “Rags to Riches” stories represent about one-fifth of all written works. Think of the catalogues of Charles Dickens, Edith Wharton and Jane Austen for some examples. And, of course, there’s variations on that trope as well. Essentially, my series “What If Wasn’t” is a Riches to Rags story that holds out hopes for a return to riches — maybe. “The ‘Rags to Riches’ emotional arc is a story we all love to believe in. It embodies the American dream itself, a belief in hope and fairness, where regardless of beginning in bad times, effort can make things better and eventually result in good fortune. On the other hand, there is enjoyment to be had in seeing a life of ease destroyed and the character struggling to rebuild.

So, no!

I believe there are more than two types of stories. I think there are at least three (plus a converse), but probably more than that. Think how many stories involve “Overcoming the Monster” (Beowulf, for example) as a common plot type. Comedy often doesn’t follow the “stranger in a strange land” or the “stranger comes to town” tropes.

Specialization is Key

So why did Tolstoy make that observation? Maybe those are the books he encountered, although Tolstoy appears to have been a great reader who explored new ideas even into his elder years. It’s entirely possible that Tolstoy, literary giant that he was, could only think in those two types of plots. Think about what treasures he left us using those two plot arcs. Maybe there’s something to be said for specialization. Jack of All Trades is sometimes Master of None and clearly Tolstoy was a master. So was Vonnegut, though he wrote in different plot structures from Tolstoy. Specialization of plot allowed them to concentrate on other aspects like character development and setting details. Would they have been literary giants if they’d strayed from their plot tracks? Would that have taken them away from the aspects of writing that made them great? Maybe those other tracks are left for other writers, so they too can shine.

I personally look forward to fiction books that create all-new tropes because those are interesting to read because you can’t anticipate the next plot point. I wonder what my fellow blog-hoppers think of this subject.

Posted November 30, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Deck the Halls   8 comments

The holiday season is just around the corner. What’s the worst gift you’ve ever received? What’s the worst one you ever given?

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Gift-Giving Is Not My Love Language

I’m the first to admit that gift-giving is not my love language. My husband says I was born with the male shopping gene. I really hate to shop, especially in the winter, when buildings are over-heated and I have to wear or carry my coat through the aisles. I usually shop early – October — so it’s less painful, but it’s still not something I enjoy generally.

But I try to buy good gifts for each person on my list. I’ve spent months constructing quilts for people and I will troll the antique stores to find something unique that is just for that one person in the family.

I have to say CVD19 really screwed up my preferred Christmas-shopping methods. A lot of local companies have closed or were at such reduced capacity during the summer that I wasn’t able to make use of them and I refuse to buy crap from Amazon for Christmas presents. I did sew a quilt for my sister-in-law, but I’m facing Thanksgiving without having my holiday ducks in a row and I’m not happy about it. I might have to go back into the stores when there are other shoppers. NOOOO!

Worst I’ve Ever Received?

My father-in-law was always the source of bad gifts. One year we received these slippers in the mail. We called them “sleeping bags for the feet”. You get the word-picture, I’m sure. They were poofy and huge. I guess they kept our feet pretty warm, but they were slippery as snot. Kiernan was a baby then, so he didn’t have a pair, but Bri literally skated on our wood floor in hers. Thank goodness she had good balance, but she now complains of a touchy knee, and I’m pretty sure the “foot bags” had something to do with that. She fell down so often during that winter.

Brad decided to wear his to the mailbox one day before New Year’s and he wiped out three times on the way to the fence, took them off and walked back to the house barefoot to chuck them in the trash. I think I kept mine because it’s rude to throw away gifts (right?) but I never used them. They made my feet sweat and I always felt like if I put my foot down without thinking, I was going to land on my butt. I don’t think they made the trip with us when we moved houses.

I think it was the next year that my father-in-law’s wife-at-the-time sent me this sweater. It was yellow and black and big enough to house a circus. I’m not kidding. At 5’1″ and maybe 110 pounds, I had room for other people in the sweater. And, it was UGLY! I never wear yellow because some people shouldn’t wear yellow and I’m one. But also, yellow and black is just a garish combination and garish is not recommended when you’re 5’1″. Nobody sees YOU when you’re wearing a sweater like that. Definitely, that was the worst gift I’ve ever received.

I Hate Giving Bad Gifts

One reason I hate gift-giving is that I hate giving bad gifts and I exert a lot of effort in finding the right gift for each person on my list. I’m not really a consumer, so I think gifts ought to mean something.

So, have I ever given a bad gift? Of course I have! And guess what I gave.

Remember that sweater?

It was a Secret Santa gift to a coworker who was tall and big boned with blond hair. I felt guilty about giving it, but I was never going to wear it and — well, she loved it and wore it fairly often over the next couple of years. And, because she was a big girl with golden blond hair, she looked good in it.

And, Then There was This One

Our old church used to have a church Christmas Party that featured a “white elephant” gift exchange. Each person would bring a gift and the host would number the guests. Number 1 would select a gift. Number 2 could select a gift or “steal” the gift of Number 1. If the “steal” occurred, Number 1 could select another gift (you couldn’t steal back your first gift on that turn). Number 3 could then select a gift or steal #1 or #2’s gift. And then it would go from there. No gift could be stolen more than three times (just so we’d go home sometime. Baptists can party late into the evening because we don’t drink alcohol). It was great fun with a group of people who had a great sense of humor.

One year, Fred brought a gift. It was a photo of him standing on the side of the pool at Chena Hot Springs wearing a Rambo-like bandana. A recovering drug-addict when we knew him, the photo showed an extremely drunk macho young-man beating his bare chest at being tough enough to stand in the snow at -25 F’. The frame was worth some money and the photo was HILARIOUS. It got stolen many times that night (this was actually before the only-three-times rule was instituted).. It eventually ended up with some jokester, because it came back to the next year’s gift exchange and the same thing happened. It was a feature of that gift exchange for a good 15 years. This “ugly” gift became a church tradition still remembered fondly by everyone who ever participated.

I never won it. I’m not a very aggressive “thief” and so it always got taken from me. One year, one of a married couple “won” it and then they were transferred to Hawaii before the following Christmas. They were packing and found the photo and brought it to me because they figured I’d put it back into rotation, which I did. And when someone unwrapped it, the general consensus was some of us were worried that the tradition had ended when Jan left town.

So, maybe it was the “worst” gift, but it was a coveted gift and it turned out to be the best gift because Fred died a few years ago and whoever that photo ended up with when the church collapsed after a scandal gifted it to Fred’s wife. We had all left the church a handful of years before, but we got together at the wake (Baptists eat at wakes, there’s no drinking). We were standing around catching up and telling “Funny Fred” stories, including that photo. Becky expressed regret that she didn’t have a copy of that photo. We thought it had gone to Wyoming with a couple who had retired a couple of years before. She then told the story of how that photo came to be a church tradition.

She and Fred were photo-philes, so they had thousands of photos of one another. At least 50 photos covered the largest wall in their house – fishing, playing with the kids, hiking, marriage, etc. Fred plucked that photo off the wall to give at the white elephant gift exchange because he knew she hated it. It dated from back in his active-alcoholic days. He figured she wouldn’t object to never seeing a reminder of those tough times again.

That isn’t what happened because the church fell in love with that photo. Over the years, that relationship remodeled Becky’s feelings about Fred’s past as represented in that photo. She didn’t have a copy of it and she kind of regretted that after Fred died. None of us know who had the photo or reached out to that retired couple, but a few weeks later, Becky came home from work to find a gift-wrapped package on her doorstep with the photo, still in its original frame, waiting for her.

I just thought I’d share that. Gifts are funny things. What they mean to the receiver may be quite different from what they meant to the giver.

Posted November 23, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Time in a Lockdown   7 comments

Has the pandemic affected your writing? If so, how? Have your writing habits changed in reaction to the ‘different’ world we are faced with?

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Time Dilation in the CVD19 Bubble

This year, I published three books. I’ve never done that before because it takes a lot of effort to write a novel and I have a full-time job and family.

Telecommuting Makes Work More Efficient

I’ve been on telecommuting full-time since late-March and I quickly came to realize that a dedicated administrator can do her job to the best of her abilities and still have a LOT of time on my hands. I usually use downtime in the office to file paper documents or interact with my coworkers or neaten my work area. But with telecommuting, a lot of that went away. I do all of my work electronically, so eliminating paper documents (except for a double-sided cheatsheet I use to remember project coding), so there’s no real filing. Nobody but me sees my work area and there are no paper documents, so neatening is unnecessary (or reduced to a Friday afternoon straightening). I can still interact with my coworkers via email and Teams, but really, we don’t do that much anymore. And, I’ve repatriated all the time I used to spend in meetings because meetings on Teams are about half the length of in-person meetings and you don’t have to go anywhere to attend them. Heck, you don’t even have to wear a bra to them.

At first, I begged for more work, but not much happened along those lines. My personal computer equipment is in the same room as my office, so became too tempting as the boredom wore on. To keep from going crazy, I finished a novel in record time and started the next one in Transformation Project. Then a coworker in Nome retired and I volunteered to take on her workload additional to my workload. The extra work kept me distracted for a few weeks, until I adapted to the new workload and then I returned to filling downtime with writing. That TP novel finished rather quickly and I wrote a third novel (the second in What If Wasn’t series), which I published in October.

So, my process hasn’t really changed, but it has sped up simply because I now have more time than I did before. All my downtime on my money job needs to be filled somehow and I prefer to spend it writing rather than napping. (This, by the way, is what my friends who homeschool happens with their kids — six hours of recommended schooling becomes three hours of actual work, followed by two hours of enriching education, leaving an extra hour for almost anything fun).

What About CVD19 Influence?

It’s 24/7 CVD19 news that you can’t get away from unless you choose to live in a no-news bubble, which I think is isolation. Thus, some of my writing topics shifted. When I blog, I now ask liberty questions with regards to CVD19 restrictions.

Question – Would a national mask mandate be constitutional?

Answer – No, the federal government doesn’t have public health powers. Some state governors have statewide powers, but others do not. In Alaska, only First-Class Boroughs and Municipalities hold those powers and so only the mayors of cities can require a mask — and Fairbanks’ Mayor Matherly would like a second-term as mayor, so he’s unlikely to require his libertarian-minded citizens do anything involuntary.

Topical Influence

It’s no surprise that my writing is delving into government abuse of power while we’re going through a period of governmental abuse of power. Of course it is on my mind and since my apocalyptic series is libertarian-influenced, the characters contemplate what I’m chewing on at the moment.

It’s quite coincidental that Transformation Project has a pandemic in it during the CVD19 lockdown. It’s a series. I planned the pandemic five years ago when I started writing the series about the “fundamental transformation of the United States of America.” In fact, it kicked around in the back of my head when I started pre-planning a decade ago. Nuclear attacks, an EMP, government confiscation of food and fuel, winter, pandemic, the fracture of the nation, and eventually … I’m not telling. It’s a slow-moving fire-sale scenario and I’m not telling who is orchestrating events.

But I might be paying more attention to the pandemic than I had planned, simply because we’re in the midst of this one. I’m doing more research — and learning some surprising things about virology and immunology. Maybe it’s deepened my writing on the topic. It certainly given me a perspective on CVD19 that is not shared by many who simply accept the official narrative as if “experts” all agree. They don’t — but that’s another topic from this article on writing process.

Fiction Imitates Real Life

The best fiction is based on at least some version of reality. Transformation Project was inspired by current events and it remains influenced by them, even though Donald Trump never was president in the series (I seriously never saw that coming). But I did foresee some version of this election, so why CVD19 has really only allowed me to write more and faster, the current political situation may influence the series far more than I had planned. We’ll see. If I’m really as prescient as I think I am — oh, yeah!

Posted November 16, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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NVDT #66 – Hallmark Moment or Smart Ass?   Leave a comment

Phil’s Blog Hop article, always with a wonderful sense of humor.

Not Very Deep Thoughts

PART OF OPEN BOOK BLOG HOP

The Prompt – What would be the hardest thing for you to give up?

Oh dear… My loving family, of course. My dear, dear friends. My loyal dog. My dead parents. Oh God, all the arts. Puppies and butterflies and the smell of fresh-baked cookies. Walks on the beach and sunsets. Grandchildren and kittens an – SKKKKKRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAK

Breathing. Without that, not much else will happen. So I’d hate to give that up right now. A good poop comes in a close second. Remember that old joke about all the body parts arguing about which was the most important?

There. That’s taken care of. I’m reading several things, editorial hat on, and all that. Some of it’s mine. I came across the only time I’ve used a deep cliché backstory device. That’s right, the dreaded picture frame. I’ll fix it, turn into a conversation…

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Posted November 10, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

The Eyes Have It #OpenBook Blog Hop   Leave a comment

November 9, 2020 What would be the hardest thing for you to give up? It’s one of my deepest fears. That someday I’ll go blind. Oh, I know that I’d be able to “read” bo…

Source: The Eyes Have It #OpenBook Blog Hop

Posted November 10, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Open Book Blog Hop – 9th November   1 comment

Stevie Turner

Hi all, this week’s topic is:

What would be the hardest thing for you to give up?

Well, for me that’s easy. I would be in dire straits if the water supply was contaminated. This is because my salivary glands are shot through from undergoing extensive radiotherapy back in 2017, and I have to sip water at regular intervals throughout the day or suffer with a terribly dry mouth.

Those of you who have perfectly working salivary glands – be thankful and don’t take them for granted. Without them it’s impossible to talk properly or eat anything (I have to eat and sip water at the same time). I have a bottle of water with me wherever I go, as I dislike intensely any fruit squashes, cola or anything sweet. I only ever drink water or green tea/lemon and ginger tea, but as the latter two are made with water…

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Posted November 10, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

What’s Really Important?   2 comments

November 9, 2020

What would be the hardest thing for you to give up?

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Hard Answer

Wow, I’ve kicked that question around in my mind for a few days. It’s a hard answer, right? What would be the hardest thing for me to give up? And there’s so much to choose from – people, places, things … wow!

So Many Things That Are Precious

What to choose from, right?

The crisp smell of an Alaska morning in June? I can’t describe it to you, but Alaskans live through brutal winters to re-experience that scent for 30 days a year. Minimal air pollution, spruce and birch trees, lilacs — I’m not sure what makes that smell, but giving it up — to, like, move to Montana or Florida, seems inconceivable.

The convenience and control of personal automobile transportation? I’m 60 and my family lives into their 90s, so this is probably not something I need to worry about soon, but I work in the transportation sector, so I have coworkers who think about this a lot. There are some in society who would like to remove that capacity from all of us — supposedly for our own good. That would be annoying, but tolerable, until you realize the same people who want us all forced into self-driving cars or public transportation are also the people who believe in bureaucratic regulation of everyone’s minute life choices because they don’t think we can handle freedom of action. Can you imagine arguing with your car over whether you’re allowed to go to church, a political rally or the liquor store and being told No? I highly value liberty and personal autonomy.

Air transport into and out of Alaska? This one came home sharply to me because I’m on a trip out of Alaska right now. Flying out saved me three days of driving — if I could get through Canada, which I can’t right now, so …. Plus, when I hit the Lower 48, I’m headed to Florida and that’s another four or five days on the road. Definitely wouldn’t want to give up air travel, even though part of this trip will include a 1500-mile round trip drive from Seattle to Montana. I am looking forward to it, but I wouldn’t trade it for air transportation.

But There are Things More Precious

My family is precious to me (even if they sometimes drive me crazy) and I can’t imagine not having them in my life.

My faith is precious to me as well and during the two-month Covid lockdown here, I discovered that skipping church is not something that is good for me. My faith remains, but my human attitude wandered.

Maybe a Lentine Approach

Of course, people give up things all the time. There’s the Christian tradition of Lent. In Dumpster Fire (latest in the “What If Wasn’t” Series, Ben reflects on how he gave up chocolate for evangelical Lent one year. He chose chocolate because he didn’t really like chocolate, so he thought it would be easy. He discovered most of human society were chocolate pushers and it was hard to say “no”. Which, by the way, is probably the purpose of Lent, to teach us the frivolity of some of our choices.

I definitely couldn’t give up chocolate. I’ve been a *reborn straight-edge for 29 years and I gotta keep at least one vice. Chocolate it is.

*A straight edge is a musician-community designation for someone who chooses sobriety without the baggage of addiction.

Seriously?

There’s so many things that it is extremely hard to make a singular choice. If you say this is the hardest thing, are you not discounting all the other things that are precious to you?

I’ve named several things and while there might be a ranking among them, I’m not certain how to go about assessing it.

I think, if I’m serious, the hardest thing to give up might be writing. I’ve done that for vacations and once for a type of evangelical Lent and I learned I can’t shut off my brain, so I might as well write. Literally, without putting pen to paper or finger to keyboard, I was still writing in my head all the time. There you have it … what would be the hardest thing for me to give up … writing.

Posted November 9, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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