What We Can Learn From ‘Hellblade’ – #Authortoolboxbloghop

Structuring a narrative and plot isn’t the easiest job in the world… in fact, it may be one of the hardest, and it doesn’t get easier when you’re trying to work with an unreliable narrator. In the past I’ve covered how 13 Reasons Why deals with mental illness and the effects of this on the narrator, I’ve also discussed why I think Hannah Baker is the ultimate unreliable narrator.

Why do I have such a high opinion of the way 13 Reasons Why handles unreliable narration? Well, for many reasons that I’ve already covered but because it practices layered narration at the same time; this is part of what makes Hannah such an unreliable masterpiece… but that’s an old point. In any case, I thought I’d never find a better example of the two together until I played Hellblade; Senua’s Sacrifice and found a story that not only blew my mind on a personal level but on a professional level too. Before we even get into the specifics lets just talk about the acting and the dialogue in the first Zynbel/Senua monologue;

And now that you’re home, he’s so far away… They’ve taken his soul; to these Gods you cannot pray.” 

That’s powerful stuff, and it borders on poetry at some points. Give it a watch if you want to know how to balance ominous malice with understanding and empathy (but be aware that the video does have spoilers);

What should be of most interest to writers about this scene, and this game, however, is the way it layers story upon story upon story. This is no doubt a reflection of Senua’s state of mind but is also a clever and powerful structural tool.

Religion, Psychosis, And Layered Narration

The first thing that strikes you about Senua’s Sacrifice is the voices that whisper all around you. If you wear headphones, you might even feel like they’re behind you; of all the tools that this clever game uses to show Senua’s mental illness or connection to the dead, they are the most haunting and least subtle. The visual cues which litter the landscape are far more poignant and gentle by far.

What is most remarkable about the use and portrayal of psychosis in this game, however, is the way they balance it with ideas of religion, mythology, and the afterlife, and the way each element impacts each story in the game.

Senua’s story is, in fact, four stories. It’s her story, her mothers’ story, Druths’ story, and the story of her warring relationships with Dillion and her father Zynbel. Each of these stories could take precedence, and while some people might feel that the way they were all mixed together made the narrative over-crowded and confusing I firmly feel that this is not the case. Why? Because each of the four stories has affected the way she goes about seeking peace with the traumatic death of Dillion, and each has had an effect on her psychological make-up and beliefs.

Her mothers’ spiritualistic view to her own illness normalised Senua’s early experiences, her fathers religious dogma created the fatalistic, self-blaming ideology that we see in her internal monologue, Dillions’ influence made her question Zynbel, and, finally, Druths’ own stories gave her the information or narrative which we follow through the game. More than this, however, Druths’ stories provided the means by which the game writers could create a subtle and complex layered narrative. Senua’s story, depending on which way you turn it could either be a spiritualist allegory for grief, a heroic quest into the realms of mythology, or a religiously influenced psychotic break created by grief. There is no definitive answer for us, just as there is no definitive answer for Senua. It’s this plausibility which makes every part of the game, including the visual distortions and taunting voices, so haunting. The question, however, is what we can learn from it as writers.

I would argue that we can learn how to find balance, how to increase plausibility, and how to codify story elements. Three main elements of the game are all we need to study in order to gain access to these lessons; Druths’ narration, Zynbel, and the ‘bosses’.

Druth

Image result for druth

Depending upon your own view of the game, Druth is either a spirit guide to Senua or a grim imaginary friend in the image of a dead man. Either way, he performs two important functions within the narrative.

  1. He informs us, and Senua, of the world around her. 
  2. He provides context. 

In many of the less favourable reviews of Hellblade, you will find these picked out as faults. In particular, the ‘lore stone’ narratives are picked upon as unnecessary additions which serve only to tell unrelated stories of Norse mythology. Likewise, his ‘spirit-guide’ monologues are often cited as being little more than a blatant way to lead you through the game.

While this is not incorrect, per say, it is uncomplex. In terms of game mechanics, yes Druth does fulfill these roles, but he also represents so much more. For a start, he allows us, the reader/player, to make sense of Senua’s chaotic life and mind when we are dropped into the thick of her darkest hour. He informs us of the beliefs to which she now clings, and if you are careful of the details you comb over he explains some of what she sees in the world around her.

For example, the very first lore stone to be found details the path that Senua was to take to Hellheim; away from Orkney and across the sea to where the land leads “down”. She is to follow a river. He notes that some acts will take you straight to Hela, while “Gods and the living” should take this path. This might read as mythology, but could also be the path by which she came to enter Norway, Finland, or even Denmark depending on where the tides took her.

Already the narrative is layered; Druth shows us how she could have come to the Gods or have come to be in foreign lands. The lore stones are not always so straightforward, but when he speaks directly to Senua he is entirely straightforward. What we learn from Druths character is how to show the reader what the character is and what they can be in a deft stroke. Druth speaks to what Senua is,

” Like you Senua, the man I once was has died. And when that happens, even Gods you worship can die with you.”

And to what lies ahead,

“For every battle won, a greater battle takes its place and so it goes until we fall. And in the end we all fall. Even the gods have their time.”

In between these points lies the subtle implication of what could be; Senua could let go. Turn around. She could leave Hellheim and choose to lay down her sword. In novels, it is not so easy to layer stories like Druth and Senuas, but with skill, it can be done. The lesson we should take from him is to balance the need to take the reader by the hand, the necessity of letting them breathe; this is how we can weave a subtle and powerful story.

Zynbel

Image result for zynbel

Unlike Druth, who notes he was mocked for speaking his truth, Zynbel, as a character, operates in the recesses of Senuas mind, or in the spiritual shadows (depending upon your view).

We never confront Zynbel directly until the very end of the game, though he makes his appearances throughout as a booming, demonic voice and a malevolent presence. Often we are Zynbel and Senua speaks as if to us. Sometimes his voice issues from Senua. In terms of the story, he could either be seen as a demonic presence or Senuas deepest fears and insecurities.

From a writers point of view, Zynbel can more definitely be thought of as the authors voice whispering half-truths and prophecies into the readers ear. Whether being malicious,

“You will never be rid of me, I am your shadow. And I will be with you until you breath your last dying gasp.”

Or empathetic,

So you will walk into the lair of the beast, look it in the eye and you will go to war. This is your mission. This is your quest. There is nothing else left.

Zynbel is the voice of omniscience. While he might twist the truth, Zynbels spirit or specter never lies to Senua unless it is in a memory, such as the one we see upon finding out the fate of her mother, Galena. Furthermore, Zynbel pushes the plot continually; Senua’s fear of him, of being like him, of being what he claimed she was, pushed Senua constantly. In this way, he is the plot.

This may seem like something that has no bearing upon writing, but it does; as a novelist, you are the guiding hand and the plot. Like Zynbel the author must operate from the shadows, however. Pushing, prodding, antagonising, and occasionally empathising with the characters are the best ways in which we can create tension. Removing traces of the authorial hand from a novel is a part of the editing process, in many ways, but we can simply melt away if we think of ourselves not as the author but as the protagonists’ main antagonist.

ValRavn, Surt, And Gramr

Related image

Finally, while this game has enough fat to chew for a lifetime, the various minibosses that Senua faces are so symbolic that it almost loses subtlety altogether. Interestingly, this is where Druth comes back in; by giving the mythological history of Surt and ValRavn he provides enough blur to once again obscure the mechanics of storytelling.

The concept of having characters fight their demons literally is not new, what we can learn from the way Hellblade undertakes this common technique is how to embody the struggle in a more complete way. For example, ValRavn could represent Senuas mental illness, her hardships in the wilds, her emotional abuse, or some people have even stipulated that he represents an instance of sexual assault. In fact, he could be an embodiment of all of this; ValRavn is secondary to the environment which Senua must traipse through to find him for our purposes.

The continual misdirection, the shifting landscape, the ominous sense of being watched at all times is representative of what Senua struggled with as a mentally ill woman in her pre-modern society.

Likewise, when dealing with Surt the broken, blood-smeared, dangerous environment, complete with sudden bursts of flame represents the consequences of Senuas rage more effectively than Surt does as the embodiment of her rage and suffering.

Once again, as writers, it is hard to encapsulate the visual and auditory elements of these levels. What we can learn from them, however, is that there is more than one way to have our characters face their demons. And, more importantly, very often the actual fight with the proverbial demon is not as difficult as coming to face it. In this sense, the environment represents Senuas delusions about her mental state; as writers, we can mirror this with the worlds in which we place them.

Gramr, or the beast guarding Fenrirs lair, is practically the embodiment of her illness. Unlike Surt and ValRavn, Gramr is found in a landscape that has no obvious dangers. He hunts her through the shadows. In this place the dynamic is reversed; Senua is not willing to face this demon. She keeps Gramr in the shadows. And so finding him is not the trouble – facing him is.

And so we must know when to make our characters work for their improvement, and when to force their demons upon them.

If you want to join the #Authortoolboxbloghop you can find more great blogs and sign up HERE.

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3 Differences Between Genre And Literary Fiction

Literary fiction is popularly thought to be un-publishable; it’s too dull, too dry, too convoluted. This isn’t the truth, though. There are many published. successful authors who write literary fiction. Barbara Kingsolver, for example, has written The Poisonwood Bibleand The Lacunaamongst others, both of which are classed as literature.

These are seriously well-known and loved novels, too! The Poisonwood Bible was part of the Oprah Book Club for Christs sake!

So – where did this myth come from? I honestly don’t know, and that’s a question for another day. What I do know is how to tell whether your novel is literary or genre fiction!

 

The 3 Main Differences

  1. The Subject Matter: Literary fiction tends to deal with macro ideas and happenings. I.e. literary fiction deals with themes and ideals, not, generally speaking, the day to day milleu of life. If you write a literary novel about the Jacobite Rebellion it will most likely be a sweeping social commentary which covers the whole affair. If you write a genre novel on the same subject its more likely to be an action-packed, romance laced retelling of the most pressured events.
  2. The Pace; Genre fiction is quicker, more agile, and more compact, generally speaking. This doesn’t mean the number of pages, by the way, the inimitable and haunting The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (I know, I know, if I ever stop ranting about this book assume I’m dead) is a slim literary volume, but its pace is steady and calm. No, genre fiction tends to take place over a shorter period of time (in story), and will generally move between major plot points with more alacrity. Literary fiction, however, more commonly takes place over generational timescales and may play loosey-goosey with the very concept of a hard and fast plot point.
  3. The Character Plot Balance; the real, telltale sign however is the balance between plot and character. Genre fiction is most likely to lean towards being plot driven. In fact, in some minimalist genre fictions we may learn very little about the largest parts of the character cast. Consider Garth Nix’s Sabrielfor example. We spend a fair amount of time with Sabriel, but we don’t learn as much about her as we might have assumed. We know about her father, her schooling, and her magic, but we very rarely see into her mind. In Julian Barnes’ haunting novel The Sense Of An Endinghowever, the “plot” seems to be nothing more than an endless unravelling of the innermost fears and failures of the protagonist. Literary fiction is driven by the exploration of philosophies, ideas, and characters, whereas genre fiction is driven by the events of the plot.

 

Simple, no?

Now you just need to write the damn thing!

How A Professional Editor Can Improve Your Essay And Up Your Grades

Why Editing Academic Essays Is Important

If you are one of those students who takes time to edit, proofread, and critique your own essays before they are handed in I applaud you.

No really; some essays are a nightmare to read, or even decipher.

If your professor is struggling to understand you they’re going to become frustrated, stressed, and angry. They might think you haven’t prepared at all, and the likely outcome is a low grade. For some people this is a result of lack of work or understanding, but for many it’s just miscommunication and poor articulation. In these scenarios the help of a professional editor and proofreader can make all the difference.

 

The Benefits Of Hiring An Essay Editor

The benefits of having your essay looked at by a professional proofreader and editor are many;

  1. A Fresh View; when we review our own work we fill in the gaps and skip typos (unintentionally) because our minds expect to see what we think we have written. Having a fresh pair of eyes to edit and proofread your essay can catch small typos and errors.
  2. An Extra Set Of Hands; when the end of the year rolls around deadlines begin to pile up. When you have three or four essays to finish in a short space of time, handing them off to an editor for proofreading can take some of the stress off of your shoulders.
  3. Development And Growth; a good editor and proofreader will also provide you with feedback and suggestions for improvement. If you act upon this advice you may well end up writing better essays first time round in the future.
  4. A Head And Shoulders Above The Rest; if you wish to stand out as a student who is really seeking to get ahead it is key that you always make your deadlines and that your essays are consistently high-quality. An editor can put a little extra polish on your hard work.

 

Making Sure You Get The Most from Your Essay Editor;

Whenever you pay for a service you want to be sure that you are getting the best deal for your money. Here’s how you can do that when you pay for essay editing services;

  1. Ask To See Their Write Up; most editors will work on a word document these days, so seeing their original comments and thoughts is as easy as asking for it. Sometimes you’ll get an old-fashioned person (like me) who works on hard copy – check which your editor is and ask to see their original write-up if they work on paper.
  2. Ask For Critique; as well as seeing their original notes, ask your editor to sum up what they think you do right and wrong overall. This will help you to understand why they recommended certain changes.
  3. Get An Editor Who Does Multi-Draft Work; most proofreaders and editors will be happy to go back and forth with you if you need to have your essay re-touched, but multi-draft work is something you should raise from the start. If you let an editor know that you will be coming back to them for a full re-evaluation after you make edits they’ll ensure they have the time to really help you.
  4. Talk Numbers; proofreaders and editors are busy and skilled people. In short, they need to be paid. However, if you plan on giving someone a lot of business they make work out a better rate for you, especially if you pay up front.
  5. Leave Your Ego At Home; remember, when you hire an editor or proofreader their job is to help you improve, not to flatter you. They will give you constructive criticism where it is needed; do not take it personally.

 

If you’re in need of an essay proofreader or editor you can see what services I offer, or contact me.

 

 

 

 

Articles 11 and 13: Why You Should Worry

Somehow, we’ve gotten to the point where, with just over three weeks to go, the internet as we know it is about to change indelibly for the worse. Yes, for those of you in the know I am talking about the EU’s proposed Copyright Directive. This new directive will be debated on the 20th and 21st of June 2018, and could honestly be bad news for our internet.
***UPDATE – Article 13 was not removed on June 20th; On July 4th – 5th MEPS will get to vote on this; please contact your MEPS AND SIGN THIS PETITION****
Now many educated and intelligent people have trodden over this ground already. As such I’m not going to dive too deep into the nitty-gritty. Instead I’m going to break down
the ways this could go tits up for fandoms, content creators, small websites, blogs, and small news outlets.
ARTICLE 11, IF PASSED, WILL

 

Make It Harder To Utilise News In Your Content; 

  • It creates broad rights of ownership in terms of news and other information. The rights will be territorial and they will stack which means you could face a spaghetti junction of copyright and ownership red tape before you ever get to discuss, dissemble, or report news on a small scale.

 

Make News And Blogging Pay To Play;

  • The huge onslaught of rights for established players would send transaction costs through the roof. Permissions would need to be sought for pretty much any usage.
  • Using the smallest part of press coverage, unless its for private use, would see you running into a paywall.
  • Small news outlets will be priced out of business, as will informal news blogs.

 

Help Big News Will Again

  • The pay-to-win dynamics mentioned above will likely make existing power imbalances worse. 
  • Photographers, citizen journalists, freelancers, and non-institutional creators will be priced out of business.

 

Furthermore, a collective of 169 European Academics (two thirds of which are full professors) found that Article 11 actually provides no protection from fake news and there is “no sound economic case” for its introduction.

 

ARTICLE 13, IF PASSED, WILL

Make Coding Utter Hell; 

  • One of the most contested parts of Article 13 involves the idea of mandatory content filtering via “censorship machines”. These have caused concerns for reasons of privacy, free speech, and doubts about their actual effectiveness… However, it’s the effect on small software developers that could be really catastrophic.
  • Abby Vollmera discussed how this will be a nightmare for code-sharing platforms which operate on the basis that creators want to share their code.
  • Now, false positives are likely for these filters anyway, but with code it becomes much more likely. Requiring code share platforms to automatically scan and remove “offending” code will drastically impact software developers.

 

No Parodies, No remixes, No Memes

  • With the definition of rights becoming so broad, so vague, and so changeable from country to country there’s a very high chance that remixes, parodies, and memes will be put at risk.
  • Such user generated content could be seen as a breach of copyright and make those who create and share it at risk of losing it suddenly, or even in the path of legal action.

 

So, What’s The Tea?

If you create, share, enjoy, or otherwise follow non-mainstream news, fanart, memes, creator content, or you want to include links in your personal blog you should be paying attention.

 

You could find yourself on the wrong side of the paywall very, very soon.

 

What You Can Do:

Resources; 

Official Documentation

Academic Break Down of Article 11

GitHubs Take On Article 13 For Coders

A Break Down Of Article 13

Simple Overview Of The Issue

Open Letters Discussing The Issue Sensibly

FAQs

 

Idea To Realisation; How To Write A Novel

PART ONE; DEVELOPING THE IDEA

A while ago I put out a tweet on my account asking if anyone, anyone at all, would be interested in live updates about what the process of writing a novel looks like start to finish.

Well, the answer was yes (as you can imagine, given you’re reading this now), and I’m a balls-to-the-wall kind of person…

 

So here it is; ground zero. That moment when you have an idea, and literally nothing else. For me that idea, that concept, consists of Four things;

  • Sound
  • Sight (an image in your mind, or in the real world)
  • Feeling
  • Texture

And it looks like this;

IMG_20180302_181729

I suspect I’m neither unique, or unusual in this, but I’ve never seen anyone talk about how to turn these things specifically into a workable plan for a novel or short story. Here’s how I begin; I write down that concept, the sight, sound, smell, and taste of it. Even if it makes little sense, even if it sounds like I’m describing a painting; I get it on paper. Sensory people, in my experience, have the most trouble with planning, and the easiest time when it comes to writing – so if you’re like me and this stage is hell, don’t worry it gets much, much easier.

This is the first step.

Then I add to that with working titles, genres, themes, potential plots and subplots. The end result is a messier version of this;

IMG_20180303_073859.jpg

From here I move on to what I call the “mini-snowflake”.

I’m sure you all know what the snowflake method is and so you probably have a good idea of what the mini-snowflake is, but I’ll explain anyway. The mini-snowflake is a replication of stage 2 of the full method applied with the idea of helping to create a concrete idea of how to progress before you start planning in earnest. Start with a single sentence which explains the premise of your starting point, then follow up with a paragraph which explains the rough trajectory of the middle, and then finish with a sentence that gives a rough shape to the end of your story. It could look like this;
IMG_20180303_073526.jpg

 

 

Now,  at this point most people would go into a full-blown snowflake, right? Well, not me amigos. If that would work better for you, and you’ve got what you need from my advice, then crack on, but I go to characters next. Stephen King once said that you’re either a planner or a pantser by nature, though most people have a little of both, and I’m a pantser. I fly by the seat of my character’s pants, though, not mine, and so I fill out my protagonist and antagonist, along with any main characters, before I do anything else. Now, this is where you might think it gets weird; my character sheets are reminiscent of D&D, but I promise you they work. Well, they work for me.

Interestingly enough this similarity predates my jump into D&D. If I’m honest it comes from playing RPG’s like Dragon Age: Origins, Oblivion, Skyrim, and, of course, older offerings. Here’s what my character sheets look like;

 

IMG_20180303_073044.jpg

 

The idea is to build a character type that can deal with the obstacles in their way, but not with consummate ease. By setting things like skills (for example research, literacy, two-handed weaponry… it all depends on your genre), feats (passive qualities which can be improved with work, e.g. strength, flexibility, intelligence) you can get an idea not only of how they will react but what they can do. Likewise, by setting things like their drive (the overall goal that pushes them through life), and their short-term goal (the thing motivating them through the story), as well as the overall ideal to which they subscribe you can begin to build a relationship with your character.

 

Once you have a cast of viable main characters return to your initial ideas sheet and ask yourself which of these ideas fit best with the characters in question. How would they react to each situation? Are the needed motivations realistic? Will there be enough tension?

Make a list of the top 3 ideas you have and note the pros, the cons, and the unique selling point for each of them because it’s time for idea development. In all honesty, you’re most likely to end up with an idea that combines aspects of all three, or even one of your top 3 with some of the disqualified contenders. Roll with it; all you need is a viable idea to work with. Think of this as a malleable hypothesis – it will change as you go through the stages of plotting, writing, rewriting, and editing.

All you need, at this point, is an idea that has 4  qualities;

  1. A HOOK
  2. TENSION/CONFLICT
  3. ROOM FOR GROWTH
  4. THE ABILITY TO EXCITE YOU

If you’re not excited and passionate about the idea, the novel is going to fizzle out. If you have these 4 things, you have a good foundation from which to kick off.

Resources for moving forward;

30 Story Starters

The Genres in Fiction

3 Mistakes To Avoid

3 Cardinal Sins of Writing

3 Ways to Level Up Your Prose

 

 

 

Symmetry In Character Arcs; Jax Teller

Let’s get real; Sons of Anarchy is just Hamlet on motorbikes. Jax is Hamlet (both born leaders with deceased fathers, good intentions that spiral to violence etc), Clay is Claudius, Gemma is Gertrude (though, in all honesty she’s more of a Lady MacBeth), and any number of the elders, Piney, Unser, Bobby, could be Polonius.

Is that what makes Jax such a fine example of symmetry in character development? No.

 

You see, much like Hamlet, Jackson starts his life as a victim in many ways; his father is killed at a young age, he’s dragged into a life of crime, albeit willingly, and throughout the early seasons his attempts to change his life and the focus of SAMCRO are beaten down at every turn by Clay, and in some cases Gemma. Despite being an Anti-Hero in the truest sense, his morality coming from senses of duty, honour, and familial responsibility rather than morality or legality, he is a passive anti-hero for much of his own life. Jax goes through cycles of passivity, trauma, aggression, and redemption in every corner of his life, and it’s this that makes the writing something we should pay attention to.

 

Victim To Villain; Passive Heroics and the Illusion of Having No Choices

Jax lets himself be taken where the wind blows for a large majority of his life.

He leaves Wendy because of her drug addiction and is blown back to Tara when she arrives in Charming. He is then blown in to the arms of various women (ugh, Ima) when the going gets tough with Tara. He nearly fucks his own sister, for Christ’s sake, and when Tara ends up in legal trouble, understandably angry and distressed, because of something she did to protect him? He jumps dick first into a brothel madam-cum-high-class-pimp; Collette. In the end, however, he lets Tara go free.

On a side note she has to literally beg him in a public place not to kill her in front of their children before he realises that he has become the monster under the bed to his own wife…. but, hey. I’m not bitter. 

Jax’s love life(lives) provide a perfect microcosm for his overall story arc, and this symmetry is something so prophetic and well-written that we would all do well to take heed.

The pattern of Jax’s life goes as such;

  1. Victim
  2. Hero
  3. Villain
  4. Belated Redemption

Consider;

Jax marries Wendy because he feels he has no other choice; he confesses to Tara that it was a “sad time out” because he never got over her. He plays the victim while using Wendy, and when the going gets tough and she becomes addicted to heroine he bails. Enter Gemma; Gemma plays villain at first to allow Jax to maintain his wounded persona, but when Wendy gets out of rehab Jax tries to play hero by urging Tara to downplay their relationship for the sake of Wendy’s recovery.

He then chases her out of town, and when she returns, clean and ready to take care of her son, he forcibly injects her with heroine in order to keep what he see’s as “his”.

The arc doesn’t finalise until after Tara’s death when he leaves everything, including the children, to Wendy’s care. But he never actually tries to make personal amends.

 

Or there’s Tara;

She leaves him, and when she returns he sets about tugging her heart strings. He puts her in awkward positions by having her patch up injured club members time and time again, and then shoots her stalker in her home. When she begins to crumble under the stress and tries to escape again Jax does nothing to support or help her, but instead throws a tantrum and jumps dick first into another woman. Multiple times.

After the Ima fiasco Tara is kidnapped and pregnant so they end up back together again, after which he barrels down a course of action that lands him serious jail time. Tara cares for the children and waits, and he eventually promises her they will get out. He becomes an active hero for Tara when he attempts to extricate them, and when he reneges on this promise and she seeks her own escape he becomes the villain himself.

He redeems himself only just before her death, after which he slides back into violence and carnage.

 

 

This is what makes Jax such a fascinating character study; he lives, for the largest part of the show, under the belief that he has no choices. It’s only when he becomes President that he really takes control, and coincidentally this is when things really spiral out of control for the club.

 

When the Circle Ends

The shattering climax, that realisation that over time he has become the villain in his own story, is so effective because we see the slide and we, the viewer, know that Jax is becoming more and more morally corrupt as the show spins out.

I once joked with my, then, partner that I had thought I would love Jax and Opie, but ended up hating them in favour of Juice, Tig, and Chibs because each of their characters was at the very least an active participant and had a morality of a sort that they held to. Jax and Opie both suffer from a martyrdom mentality that kills everyone and everything around them.

 

As writers we can learn from this undeniably masterful deployment of characterisation because it shows us, firstly, that you don’t have to like a character to root for them. Secondly, that symmetry is key; characterisation extends to the milieu of a characters life as well as the defining story arc. Thirdly, anti-hero’s don’t have to be edge-lord, morally grey gun-slingers like Dirty Harry. Sometimes an anti-hero is the pretty boy down the road who pretends that none of his bad choices could have been avoided.

 

 

Image Source; https://www.theodysseyonline.com/13-times-jax-teller-swoon

“Write what you know”

Um, no?

 

This advice will cripple you; don’t listen to it, don’t look at it, don’t think about it!

 

Now, I should qualify this advice does have its place, but it should be taken with a pinch of salt; I’d take it to mean don’t write about something sensitive or realistic until you’ve taken the time to research it. Likewise, don’t take experiences that are no yours. i.e. write about people of different cultures, colours, orientations, and genders, but don’t write a story about the experience of being that person. Have a gay character, but don’t, as a straight person, write about the experience of being gay in this world. Makes sense, right?

 

Don’t, dear god, think it means don’t write about anything unless you’ve first seen/done/experienced it! Because you’ll either spend your life chasing questionable experiences, or your writing will suffer.

 

Writing is the practice of literacy tempered by empathy; if you don’t have direct experience talk to those who do, read primary sources, do your research and draw on similar experiences that you do have.

 

Above and beyond all else you need to learn to take criticism from the people who do know what you’re writing about first hand; don’t take it as a personal attack, but an opportunity for personal growth. If you practice these disciplines, research, active listening, empathy, and humility, your writing will flourish!