The Apache Tracker, Steve Carlsberg, Kevin, & Redemption Arcs in Welcome to Night Vale

NIGHT VALERedemption arcs are very rarely done well and they usually focus simply on a character doing one good deed before dying, which is supposed to make us believe that they have now become a completely better person. This is lazy storytelling at its finest, because you don’t have to do any deep character development or show the character changing in any real way. Furthermore, this storyline is unrealistic when it comes to how others respond to the redeemed character. It always amazes me that one act of kindness is enough for sometimes an entire race of people to forgive someone for a lifetime of atrocities. Everything in this type of storyline just feels very unrealistic. Thankfully, Welcome to Night Vale comes to the rescue. WTNV is pretty revolutionary and creative when it comes to much of its storytelling, but I was especially pleased when I noticed the much more nuanced way that WTNV addressed redemption arcs.

Spoilers for WTNV from Season 1 to Episode 73.

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“There’s Only One of Me”: Orphan Black’s Character Development Problem

Over the past couple weeks, my cousin has been staying with me, and because there is only so much “going outside and doing things” that I can handle, I eventually asked her, “Hey, want to watch this cool show called Orphan Black?” Fortunately for me, she said sure. We ended up marathoning all three seasons and I got to spend more time inside where there was air conditioning.


Pros of watching the show with my cousin: Got to drag another person into the Orphan Black fandom
Cons of watching the show with my cousin: Could never tell her that I wanted Cosima to date me instead of Delphine

However, marathoning the entire show over two weeks showed me an interesting Orphan Black problem. The four main clones—Sarah, Alison, Cosima, and Helena—have always had very set roles, and they’ve stuck to them continuously over the seasons. Sarah is the wild one, Alison is the soccer mom, Cosima is the geek monkey, and Helena is the tortured assassin cinnamon roll. Their roles are much more than just their professions—in a show filled with look-alikes, said roles are also a way to differentiate them from each other. Character doing some ill-thought-out grifting? That’s Sarah. Character being science-y? That’s Cosima. And on and on. Yet forcing each clone to stick to set personality traits and professions also has the adverse effect of negating any possible character development, as well as being oddly repetitive for such an original show. So why not… change things around?

Spoilers for all three seasons of Orphan Black below.

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An Ounce of Encouragement

This is a particularly tough time of year for many of us because it’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, if for some reason you don’t know that). You’re trying to make something good and actually write 50,000 words in a month. You’re behind deadline, and there’s no way that you’re going to get to fifty grand by the end of the month. Being in many ways a stereotypical “nerd” with my comical knowledge of Star Trek and my ability to list all the gods in the Deities and Demigods or all the times and ways that a Grey or Summers has died, for me, part of really enjoying a thing is delving as deep as I can into knowledge about the thing. By the same token, as someone who works in and loves the performing arts, I believe strongly in the power of an individual to create something that moves people, and so always want to create the best, most moving things possible. I don’t think that nerds are excluded from the second quality or that artists are excluded from the first. I do know that it creates a maddening obsession with well-informed perfectionism. Surely you know that feeling, too. Continue reading

Web Crush Wednesdays: Comics Survival Kit

Web Crush WednesdaysComics is a weird place. Everything from the way publishers gauge sales and popularity, to just trying to start reading at the right issue and volume can be tricksy. Even breaking into the comic book industry—the subject of today’s Web Crush—often seems mysterious.

Or at least, it was, until Comics Survival Kit showed up. Continue reading

Magical Mondays: Destiny and How Not to Write Magic

I’ve done it. I’ve finally done it. After a couple of weeks, I’ve finally beaten the campaign mode of Destiny. I could have completed it quicker—true enough, the campaign isn’t exactly what one would call “expansive”—but I couldn’t find a reason to. After landing on Mars (the final planet in the storyline thus far) I left the story behind and did other things for about a week and a half.

Destiny Warlock WallpaperI understand you must be scratching your heads right now, wondering what this has to do with magic. This problem with Destiny’s lack of exposition is the same problem it has with its magic; in fact, it’s even worse when taking its magic system into consideration. That is to say: no matter how cool your magic system is, or no matter how much it doesn’t actually factor into the universe, it needs to have some weight to it. Your magic must actually be a part of your universe.

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Role Playing and Sexism

Online role playing, as a writing form, has seriously come into its own in the past decade. I remember hopping online back when everyone was congregating in AOL chatrooms and, unsurprisingly, most of the role playing I saw going on there was either animal role playing or cybering (typing out sexual acts, one of the most noted forms of role playing). These days, we’re a long way away from those chatrooms—role playing can be found anywhere with a text-based posting system and with as much diversity as all 500 or so cable channels. Especially in my life, role playing has taken a huge role in shaping my writing style as well as who I am as a person; I’ve improved in character building, I met my girlfriend and a wide majority of my friends through role playing, and I even offer to help others in building their own characters. I also help run a role playing site, so my co-admin and I experience the good as well as the bad of the community. And let me tell you, when role playing gets bad, it’s really bad.

Only 90's kids remember.

Only 90’s kids will remember.

If one were to ask what the worst part of role playing is, or rather, what’s the worst thing to run into, I’m sure that a solid eight times out of ten, people would mention something about Mary Sues in all their overpowered glory. However, this would be incorrect. First of all, Mary Sues are fantastic and should be protected at all costs. That aside, one of the largest problems to plague the role playing community, at least from a forum-based standpoint, is the manner in which male characters are held in higher respect than female characters.

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Web Crush Wednesdays: Fandom Grammar

jr9fangirls1111Aside from writing awesome posts, one of my duties around this blog is to make sure everyone else’s posts turn out awesome too. (Translation: I’m Editor-in-Chief.) Editing for a geeky blog has its quirks, to be sure, and that’s how I found myself Googling “is muggle capitalized” a few days ago. The first result that wasn’t Yahoo Answers was from the livejournal community fandom_grammar, and this is the story of how I fell in love.

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Does Fanfiction Promote Pacifism?

Most sci-fi/fantasy stories go like this: a bad guy is causing problems, the good guy(s) take a noble stand against the bad guy, there’s an epic, violent battle, and then the bad guy is killed or defeated. Once again good reigns supreme. This is typically how the story goes, but does it have to go this way?

pacifistdefinitionbuttonFanfiction explores things a little differently. Often, evil characters are just as beloved as—and sometimes even more beloved than—the heroic characters. Furthermore, villains often have some sort of tragic backstory that viewers can relate to, especially if viewers have gone through similar experiences. For example, I think anyone who has experienced racial prejudice can sympathize and even understand exactly where a character like Magneto is coming from. While some fans rationalize and make excuses for the evil some villains do because they relate to them (or simply like them), other fans recognize the evil these villainous characters have done, but don’t want them dead or locked away. I think one of the most interesting ways fans deal with this dilemma is through fanfiction.

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Magical Mondays: Machination and Magic

In this scene from the Disney movie Hercules, the Fates explain that Hades needs to wait thirteen years for the planets to align to release the Titans. In the movie, when the time finally arrives, the alignment seems to do nothing more than push the water aside, revealing where the Titans are, and Hades easily releases them. This whole plot point in the movie constantly left me thinking, “What?” Hades already seems to know where the Titans are located, so why does he have to wait for this planetary alignment? Why is this planetary alignment connected to the Titans’ prison anyway? If you think about it too much, it doesn’t make much sense.

Continuing with the theme from my last post discussing worldbuilding, today I want to tackle the “rules of magic,” or how magic generally works in fiction. Magic is a great way to make things happen in a story that would be impossible otherwise, but when you sit back and ask yourself “why does this work”, and the answer is “it’s just magic”… then I think we need to think about things a little more.

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Magical Mondays: World-Building and Magic in Fanfiction

Shdw_Art01aWorld-building is one of the most important and most difficult things that an author must do. In fantasy, world-building can be anything from elaborate Tolkien-esque building of an entire universe, to simply attempting to explain how magic works in your world, or explaining the culture or political structures of certain magical creatures. These sometimes seemingly minor details can add so much depth to storytelling.

However, many times I find world-building tends to be forgotten by authors who aren’t creating a whole new world. The idea that urban fantasy or modern fantasy doesn’t need as much world-building, because these magical characters live in our world, shows a lack of understanding of basic storytelling. TV shows and movies are the worst offenders when it comes to world-building, often relying some on special effects and fast-paced action scenes to tell a story, and as a result the viewer leaves entertained, maybe, but lacking insight into the world and characters they have just visited. Even books sometimes suffer from this. It’s been said by many authors that less than half of what you write or know about the world you created doesn’t end up in the actual book, because it would distract too much from the actual plot. Obviously, TV shows, books, and movies are not meant to act like history books; they are supposed to entertain, so sometimes the world-building gets put aside for action or romance. No matter how good an author is at balancing world-building and moving the plot forward, unanswered questions about how a universe works will always come up.

Enter fanfiction.

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