Eight to Twelve Word Stories.

Prompt: Self Destruction in love.

Loving her left me with a journal, xanax, and whiskey.

Drugs and rock n’ roll were kids stuff or stupid, but not Sex

Best friends ate together, laughed together, and fought over cocaine.

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The Danger of One Dimensional Villains

Villains are fun, or they should be. Even if they make us physically ill there is entertainment from loathing their very existence. So why is it so many villains end up cackling mustache twirlers? The answer is the same as why so many protagonists end up reading the same as others, writing a role and not a person.
dd

As I was typing this up I almost wrote that the mistake was making characters evil for the hell of it, but I realized that has never been a problem. A well written villain can just enjoy being wicked or flat out evil just like a protagonist can enjoy being good for compassion’s sake. Some of my favorite villains have been those who are just quite simply evil. In my opinion one way to make these characters work is by giving them the illusion of having other motives and complexities. Another way is by making the villains motives unknown until the protagonist gets to ask. I don’t remember what show this was, but years ago I remember this exchange between a protagonist who’d just been captured and the villain of the show. The hero basically asked why, and ,without a single laugh or any other stereotypical sign of insanity or wickedness, the villain just said “Because its fun for me.” That moment always stuck with me.

The reason that stuck with me is because so often villains are just evil to fill the role of being evil without ever convincing you that they are the villain for a reason. Often there are mitigating forces writers mistake for backstory such as insanity, which is borderline offensive in most cases, or not being loved. But those traits and a thousand others don’t automatically make a villain complex. Those traits like any plot element become cliches when you fail to understand how to use and portray them well.

Why do people love Loki from the Marvel films?

tom-hiddleston-loki-scenes-thor-dark-world
Well, look at him.

Putting aside Tom Hiddleston’s acting(And face) Thor begins by showing Loki as an outsider not because of who he is, but because he is a methodical intellectual more than a traditional fighter. He is constantly compared to his brother who is more traditionally handsome, more of a warrior, and the first born. Thor is arrogant, but light in all places where Loki is dark. Thor’s arrogance came from entitlement, while Loki’s arrogance came from his actually being smarter. Loki’s most complex relationship comes from a father, Odin, who is moderately detached, set in his ways, and quicker with punishment than with a kind word. The great irony of their interactions is Odin, in trying to bring out the best in his sons, often brings out the worst…and the funny part is Loki’s worst parts are in many ways the parts that make him most like Odin. Does he hate Thor? Does he hate Odin? Yes…and no. He is a man who would gladly kill them both…and we constantly get glimpses that despite that he still loves them…and hates that. He is in conflict with his actions, wants, and feelings which are shown to be somewhat justified. All of these things make Loki a complex character and a protagonist in his own head.

When you watch him these things aren’t just thrown out to the audience. The complexities of his character play out in how the characters move, how they respond to traumatic events, and what brings them together just as much as what pulls them apart. Loki doesn’t spend all his screen time being the caricature his comic book persona really is(trust me on that). Loki isn’t just a villain, but a whole present person in a world where he chooses to antagonize the common good. Those traits are elevated because Loki doesn’t just act like a boring villain whose one purpose in life is to be in Thor’s way. He has his own goals…and Thor is just the one in the way.

Our villains can be simple, but that doesn’t stop them or their motivations from being complex. Another example? Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. He is a complete bastard who gets away with everything because he is a “man’s man” with good looks and supposedly little fear. Why does he fascinate people beyond his inflated sense of ego? Gaston thinks he is doing everything right. Everyone thinks he is. Belle is the problem, not him. In his eyes she should be fawning over him because that’s how it should be. His entire view of the world isn’t just based on him, but on a value system of how everyone should and should not be. In his mind every passive aggressive “compliment” at Belle is legitimate help, and he is doing her a favor by even speaking to her at all. Why be smart, he wonders, when you are a woman…and a beautiful woman.

I love the picture below because it captures everything about him and how he sees himself in an image. You understand him the moment he comes on screen because the moment he strikes that pose you learn everything. He is arrogant, self-absorbed, and superficial. Oh and a jackass. But the movie takes the time to situate him and those traits in his world. It’s not just him, but the whole village who is superficial because they all hold the same values. He is just the embodiment of every wrongly held value of that village. He is still a person with  insecurities that make him lose all of his senses. Insecurities he probably never knew he had. He isn’t like the wicked step-mother from Cinderella who just is evil. Side note: the film Ever After does an amazing job of conveying why she is so cruel. Gaston is a product of toxic masculinity, of hubris left unfiltered, and of a world where pretty things become trophies even if they aren’t things at all.

villains-gaston-by-justin-mctwisp

Some of you may be wondering what is the solid difference between a villain having traits of substance and not. I said earlier I hate when insanity is used to justify a character’s evil actions. I am an advocate for mental health, but I will tell you that I still disagree with people who say mental illness should never be a part of a character who is evil. The problem with mental illness is that it is just glued on. All traits tend to be exaggerated in fiction, but mental illness is exaggerated to the point of mockery without any nuance. The villains run around talking to themselves doing crazy looking things because crazy. That’s just fucking lazy. It’s poor writing. It’s a cliche. And it sure as hell ain’t your average mental illness. There is a way to craft a character with mental illness as an aggravating factor to their actions. The trait has to be there not as an excuse, but as part of the character. No mentally ill person is defined by just being mentally ill. The problem too is plenty of mentally ill people are perfectly regular members of society, but we rarely see that portrayed. Instead we get a lot of mustache twirling justified because…evil.

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Keep your villains as complex as possible.

When you are creating your villains don’t ever say “Ok here is the villain” because you should be creating a person with goals, dreams, and insecurities. Unless you intend it to be so don’t make your characters just be empty roles with traits glued on. Make those traits have real weight. Portray them as being individuals who are no less fully realized than your main character. It may take some time, but your story will be all the better for it. My dearest hope is people will take my advice, and I will never have to see a shitty villain again. That won’t be the case, but a girl can dream.

Digital Blossoms A Short Poem

In text of zeroes and ones,
He professes desire to me,
Across a screen brighter,
Than the fires of hell,
He plots to tempt me,
Because he saw my face by chance,
After months of radio silence,
And his heart, for a second, skipped a beat,
Across a thousand wires and wavelengths,
Lust in the modern age,
Blossoms,
Like the fruits that burst red and juicy,
On Persephone’s tongue,
“Lure me” or perhaps she said,
“Lure me?” or perhaps she said,
“Lure me!” but we’ll never quite know.
Perhaps she doesn’t quite know,
But it Flows.
But it Follows.
But does it Grow?

Who knows?

But across some far off distance,
Or closer than I hoped,
I became an object of desire,
He plots, leaving the door open,
Lure me or lure me or lure me.
Across clicks and churns and,
Chuggings of hard drive,
By chance he saw me, and I?
Who knows?

Does Poetry Sell?

I’ve been debating releasing a collection of erotic poetry I’ve been adding to for the past…nine years? And as I’ve been thinking about it I  wondered..do you guys buy poetry? I do on occasion, but more and more I have begun to wonder if poetry only sells if you are lucky enough to end up in the New York Times. Plenty of other writers have had success as poets, and poetry publishers.

Nikki Grimes,whose published 50 books over the course of 30 years, had a pretty honest perspective about selling poetry that I find very realistic:

To be fair, if you are a poet, it is highly unlikely that you will become wealthy working in this genre, no matter how well you hone your craft. That much is true. But chances are, you already know that. I would wager that most writers, keen on this particular genre, aren’t looking to make a killing in the marketplace. They simply have a penchant for the lyrical line, and a passion for metaphor. Like me, they pen poetry because they, quite frankly, can’t help themselves. Poetry is in them. It’s part of their DNA. Poets don’t value their work in terms of fiscal weight, and that’s where we differ from agents and editors.

No one alive should ever expect to break bank via publishing. It’s just not how it goes, but you can be comfortable. Besides poetry is about the feeling, the intent, and inspiring others to feel and see in new exciting ways. But here is the catcher. I am a poet who likes to have food and ,ya know, live.

As I’ve researched poetry publishing it is becoming clear that it’s a gamble, no one knows either way how it could go, but ya know what? Don’t act like you’ll make money. Act like you’ll do what you love. That’s…hard to do sometimes.

Still the world would be lesser for a lack of poetry than an overabundance. Poetry, like music, can do things in a line that thousand page novels fail to do in 400 pages not because those 400 pages are ineffective, but because the minimalist nature of a poem can do things in ways novels simply can’t do. In that way poetry offers an exceptional learning opportunity for writers of all kinds…which I will detail in my next post. For now let me say that poetry is incredibly important for writers to read and comprehend. You don’t have to like all poetry, but reading a diversity of poetry can sharpen your skills at conveying feeling, producing imagery, and understanding line structure.

I am proud to say I write great dialogue because I read and wrote poetry starting from 10 years old. Actually maybe even younger I remember reading Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings at some point with my mother’s help. How did poetry help me write dialogue? A good insult should be as sharp as a good poem and just as heavy with the punctuation. A proclamation of love that, I believe, has the most effect can be as simple as one line when you craft to context well. Poetry has done a lot of me as a writer, as a human being, and I know I’m not alone.

So why do we let it go so under appreciated? Why do people hesitate to spend $5 on a book of poetry that could effect them as deeply as 400 pages? Times are tough for many people. Yet even still there is so much we could do if we embraced poets more.

No one should ever expect to get rich off of writing. If you read those “I made a Bajillion $$$ Writing Ebooks” articles and believed them I’m sorry. There’s a reason a ton of those articles reference Stephen King or J.K Rowling, and not hundreds and hundreds of other writers. There’s a million of us. Yes, some are better than others, but this field must be about passion. Whether you write to market or no you must display some kind of passion because $$$$ doesn’t just fall into your lap; because you may write 30 good books before ever making $500; because so many authors haven’t been “discovered” until after their deaths. Writing is a cold hard mistress, and I’d say poetry holds a steel tipped whip.

But we can make it softer.
If we consume each other. If we’re willing to take that risk and buy a random book of poetry, if we’re willing to say our emotional and mental labors are worth something.

We have to create and contribute to the market as both buyers and writers. We have to recommend books and poets to build excitement and appreciation for poetry.

 

Check out my two releases:

Suffer too Good and Dirty Honey on Amazon.

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Coldest Welcome ( Part One: Arcane Warrior)

In the depths of the old wood, where the trees dripped tears over the toppled stones from the mountain,  Mal sat beneath the willows, clutching the totem in her hand. It’s word ivory etchings still held the shape of a Field Spring dog. Her father said it held the power of the old ancestors, but she sensed no faint hum through her skin nor the pull upon her spirit.  All that reached out to her was the winter frost through the long arms of the trees. When did everything turn so cold? It seemed as though she’d been walking along the southern shore the day before. Asan, with his rugged good looks, swept her up and into the water as though they were children and not soldiers. The war seemed so long ago, but it’d been merely a year. If everything felt like it’d just happened did that mean Mal was getting old? She sighed and hoped not. Grey did not go with her sun blessed complexion. Grandma might have gone silver, which flattered her ebony skin, but Mal took after her father’s people. “Least of my worries.”she muttered, as a large wet drop splashed across her head, making her cringe.

A short time ago she’d been the source of much strife in the life of her lover, Asan. He defended her like a noble knight defending a fair maiden, though Mal had never been fair and Asan had helped her cease being a maiden long ago. Yet what plagued her was his defenses of her character and person. They were flattering and yet they seemed to inflame parts of her just as much as her attackers, her detractors. Asan’s spirit had been right until they revealed the truth. It ached and cut in such a silent way. In bandaging he just cut deeper, and how could she say why? Would it even be clear?

“I thought I’d find you here.” Asan’s voice, deep like the ocean and just as soothing, came from behind her, and she sighed.

“I needed to think.” She turned her head to see him trudging up the hill wrapped in thick a thick wolf pelt and carrying a dense green blanket. She must have been gone longer than she realized. She looked upward and the sun had just moved past the mountain peek. It’d been hours. Asan came and sat beside her on the stone and wrapped the blanket around her shoulders. A slow smile crossed her face and she remembered all the reasons she loved him. For his parent’s and sibling’s sakes she wished she did not. “How are things at the house?”

Asan’s shoulders tensed ever so slightly before falling, and then with all the irritation and disappointment a son could have when his parents disapproved he sighed.

“My mother calmed father and Bretlynn down. Rynhold is…civil, but displeased.”

“I got that from the yelling.” She managed a small smile, but it felt more painful than humorous. Judging by how he rubbed his knees and he hung his head in shame it looked as painful too.

“I’m sorry you had to deal with their horrid behavior. I had told them of you, but…I didn’t expect-”

“They assumed it’d be less part of me, but my magic is as part of me as my hair, my eyes, or my voice. But I think…I think they expected to talk you out of…of us.” The words hurt as she spoke them, and part of her felt foolish for it. She’d been a mage her whole life. Sequestered, belittled, threatened with things that no person should have to suffer. The rejection by Asan’s family wasn’t even the worst of her life’s horrors. Ha. They should have taken lessons, but their scornful eyes spoke of beliefs more seated than prejudice. Those eyes ,so like Asan’s in their almost golden beauty, told her their beliefs were faith. They’d never see it for what it was. They’d never admit their irrational consternation for her daring to exist. People like them never did.

“And I love every part of you!” He misunderstood. She never doubted that for a second though she had plenty of reason to. He was vigilante of those who could move energies beyond their world, but he’d long outgrown their fear. However, did that truly make enough of a difference? Did he truly ever understand? They’d come here to announce their engagement and he had never expect his family’s ire.

“I believe you…but could they?” she said. He looked taken aback, as though he didn’t expect her to be so blunt. She felt so tired, but what else could she do but make him see things as they truly were. “You were raised by those who fear magic and who see me as cursed-”

“I don’t care that you’re a mage.”

“And that’s the problem!” She jumped to her feet, nearly slipping on the rocks. He started forward, grabbing her arm so she would not bash her head in on a rock. She stepped down to the ground and turned to him. “You love me, but do you see me?”

“Of course, how can you doubt that?” Asan sounded so hurt and it stung her to hear it, but she had to be honest.

“I ask because they can’t and perhaps you couldn’t, or wouldn’t, see them.” Mal began rubbing the back of her hand nervously. Her heart thudded against a cage of anxiety that began to creep up her throat, and squeeze in on her vocal cords. “How could you not know they’d act this way?”

“I-I…thought they’d be better.”

“Better how?”

“That they’d see you, as I do once they got to know you.” His fingers slid down to her hand, squeezing gently. Mal almost pitied him for his naivety, but that feeling only heralded a wave of slow burning irritation.  She rubbed the bridge of her nose and took a slow breath to steady her nerves.

“I am a mage. A witch. An arcane warrior.” Her eyes fell upon his face, and all part of her yearned to do was study his olive skin and run her fingers and lips across his stubble. Not for lust or love, but to pretend the world didn’t matter and none of this mattered. But it did. It made all the difference to their future. “Do you not see that?”

“Of course I do,” he said.

“A-and you love me in spite of it?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said. Asan looked so confused and Mal could tell he knew she had a point.

“But here is the trouble I need you to love me , not in spite of, but in part because my magic is what makes me…me.” Mal slipped her hand from his grasp, and with it she felt herself slip further away from him. They were boats out at see and the ropes that bound them together were slipping, the knots couldn’t hold, and soon? If they were not careful they’d vanish in the fog and hold nothing but parts of a rope of old bittersweet memories. She didn’t want that. She didn’t want to lose him, but she’d be damned if she did her and him and his family a disservice by ignoring it. Perhaps selfishly, she’d rather break his heart than pretend that this didn’t bother her or did not matter. “You must love me fully or not at all in this case. You need not love magic, but you must love the magic that is in me, what I can do with it, and appreciate the joy I take in it. There are things couples can look past, but somethings must be loved to and not in spite of. If I loved you in-spite of your faith in the All-Father and could not find any respect or beauty for it, what would you say?”

“I..I do not know. I would have to think on everything.” Asan spoke softly and slowly. In his eyes wheels turned, as the thoughts and words connected to find meaning. He wasn’t a slow man by any means. She’d seen him put fools in their place with perfect words, so sharp they might as well have been a sword. But he had this habit of ignoring that which hurt to acknowledge, or bounding around the issues to avoid confronting what life demanded. If only she could be the same. But then again she would not be herself.

“and for you to understand what my magic means and to see what my magic means you must see me as a person, a woman, and a mage. You can’t section off the parts of me you like all the time. Everyone does it. We ignore our lover’s favorite books, or distaste for foods we love. But there are parts of us so important to our lives and who we are we must take a stand.”

“But what does it matter? How do you know the difference?”

“The difference is your family greeting me as your temporary lay versus your future wife.” Cold. Curt. and made them sound so unfavorable. She didn’t like to be that way usually, but it felt somewhat good.

“That’s unfair!” he said.

“But is it wrong?” To that she received only a heavy silence, pregnant with fears he didn’t want her to speak and words she feared she’d have to say.

“No.” His eyes fell to her feet. “Shit.”

 

“I say all this because for you to bring me here, to be hurt, by them…for you to be so ignorant of their prejudice-” he voice began tremble, and her throat grew tighter, hotter. She felt the threat of tears as images of the evenings arguments blurred in her head. They wished them the worst. They called her everything but a monster. Oh they thought her nice, but her magic damned her more than rudeness ever could. “How could you not think about that, or at least warn me of it, unless you were pretending not to see?”

And to that Asan had no answer. To that his mouth hung open as he tried to bring forth excuses, justifications, and rationales. Yet Asan could not lie through logic, through truths presented by someone he so dearly loved, and his spirit crumpled. Many would call her over sensitive, would say it shouldn’t matter, would say she made a mountain out of a mole hill. Asan had always acted better than that. He did not disappoint. If he did maybe it would have been easier.

“But what does your magic matter? What does that have to do with you as a person, as a woman, as my wife?”

Mal let out a dry chuckle, and folded her arms in front of her chest with  a roll of her eyes. He still did not want to get it.

“Magic informs who I am. I am a woman mage. I like being able to cast spells, I research magical artifacts, I grew up cloistered in a mage sanctuary. Magic is and always will be a part of my life and a part of my life that defines part of my core identity. If we have children they could be mages. Their mother will be a mage.”

“I know that! Don’t think I’m a fool,” Asan said.

Mal sighed, letting her arms fall to her side. She wanted to just run off to some warm quiet corner, and sleep.

“No child should be told in ways big or small that “Your mother is very lovely except…” “Your father is wonderful but only….” I will not have it be so. I’d sooner raise children on my own than have that be so. ” Now, the tears began to fall down her cheeks. A sob racked her chest and the suddenness of it shocked her. She turned away, wiping her tears so he could not see. Crying in front of people wasn’t something she did. From the corner of her eye she saw his shadow move and he stepped behind her. He let her cry as he wrapped his arms around her, and maybe he had begun to understand. Maybe he had begun to see her pain. “It was minor to you. My magic was to be ignored, but I don’t want it ignored or even loved. I want it accepted.”

“I would never tell our children that,” he said, and she believed him.

“You don’t have to say “I hate something” to make it clear. Most people never use the words love or hate, but their words and actions otherwise do enough.” She sniffled, and swallowed, trying to collect herself once more.  Another beleaguered silence weighed in, only broken by her sniffling. After what felt like an eternity of melancholy he pulled her tighter.

“I failed you because I didn’t want to believe they’d not understand. I wanted to believe they’d come to the same conclusions I did, but maybe even my own conclusions were short sighted.”

“You’ve never been with someone like me. It is to be expected, but… can it change?”

“I can’t change my family, but… I can try to talk to them and I can try to better accept you. Mal, you deserve everything in the world I can give. It isn’t much, but I’d rather be and do better than live a lesser life without you.”

A warmth slowly ran through her, causing the cage around her chest and throat to retreat. It’d take time until she felt free again, but the release brought relief enough for now. She trusted him, but now he knew her line in the sand. He had to see if he could change and she’d watch carefully.

“I’m going to talk to my father, and he shall either accept us or he shall be a lesser part of our lives…I’ll be sorry for it, but they need to know I won’t let it stand.”

“Don’t destroy your relationship with them, but…don’t expect me to let them walk over me again and discuss me like I’m five seconds from burning down the whole village.”

“Five seconds? I thought it was less than that.”

She let out a little laugh, watching the river flow on as a stray leaf landed on its surface. It bobbed along, twisting and turning with every flow and ebb.

“Oh yes, three seconds from massive destruction is more accurate. Especially on a day like today.”

It’d have to do for now when better people took a lot of work. No one changed in a day. Asan didn’t and she couldn’t expect that of others. Still she couldn’t be expected to let their lesser natures belittle her own. She was a good woman and an even better mage. They could either learn that or they could not. But for now she had Asan and for now she’d try to be happy and push through the bad for some good.

***So definitely inspired by the video game Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the relationship between Commander Cullen and a mage Inquisitor.***