FOR THE BEST

When you’re under a huge amount of stress and everything is going wrong around you, are you able to turn all of the negative things that you’re facing into anything even vaguely positive? When you have the crap flying at you, do you feel the need to to start swinging in return?

It’s a method that gets rolled out very often in story telling whereby the characters actions are explained, and often justified, by the external forces that they experience.

Anakin Skywalker is nudged, rather than shoved.

Each and every one of us will be the result of the experiences which make up our lives. A deep rooted fear of spiders may come from that time when you were a kid and the creepy little beasts ran all over you in bed. I’ve been a terrible passenger in cars after I was badly injured in a crash.

But when a great many of the worst type of events line up one after another it could become really easy to let the feeling of ‘why me?’ build up to the point where you would lash out. You snap and do something which is out of the norm just as a way to exert the very barest shred of control. From there you can continue to tumble as the pressure remains and soon, you’ve been behaving in a very antisocial fashion and have been pushing people away left, right and centre.

So could you be smashed down by the worst that life has to throw at you and not turn to the dark side? Could you take all of the horror and turn it to something which is much stronger and lighter?

On the most part, everyone sees themselves as being the good guy. Looking again to Anakin Skywalker, as each of the nudges bumped him, he reacted. He pushed back in the only way he could at the time until, without him even realising, he was clad in black and slaughtering people. Now this isn’t to say that anyone going through bad times will be just one problem away from going on a murderous rampage but rather than they want to have some ability to face the world and push back. So when everything conspires to grind you down, could you turn all of the hurt into an act of kindness rather than violence? Could you still do the good rather than just lash out?

I guess that none of us will ever know until we’re forced to face that choice.

I know that I’m doing my best to stay positive at the moment despite everything and I can feel the benefits. I’m still under the attack that all of the family are under but I’m trying to hold as much positivity as I can rather than just turning to the anger.

We just have to keep on swinging.

REACH OUT

Just how many of us are trying to get our voices heard?

Every day at work, at school, at home and at everywhere else in between, we all want our voice to be heard.

We want to know that what we say is seen as having value. We need to have that feeling of validation. That our ideas, and by extension, us in general are viewed as having worth.

So why do we all need to be clamoring to be heard?

As the world we live in changes and our interconnectedness as a species evolves with the addition of each new way we can share what we’re up to, there comes with it the new horror. If it’s so simple to connect with anyone and everyone, if any talentless wannabe with a webcam and a silly idea can become the greatest sensation the world has ever seen (at least for a minute), how could any of us struggle to be listened to?

The speed that communication works can make us all feel that the torrent of words is washing us away as we do everything to stay afloat. We need to know that our ideas have been noticed as they’re cast into the rushing waters, that someone out there just happened to be looking in just the right place at just the right time and agreed with us. When we see the ‘likes’ flashing up, it goes far beyond just being a fix to an addict, it can become the lifeline to a drowning man. In that instant when the thumbs up or orange dot appear, just for that second, we can know that somewhere out in the darkness that there was someone who didn’t think we were talking nonsense.

But this brings up another issue.

What if just being noticed is the goal and agreement with anyone is irrelevant?

Why do we see so many examples of people putting forward awful ideas just to provoke a reaction? The negative game of just trying to draw as many people as possible just to pay attention to what you say by being as vile or provocative as you can is a tactic readily used to shine a light on a given topic and all of the anger and blazing outpouring of righteous indignation play directly into the plan. So many people then start talking about all of the terrible things said and all of a sudden, the narrative is spread wider than with just a comment about something ‘positive’.

I have this great fire in me that wants to reach out to others. I can recognise that the world is a place where you can be left to feel as if you’re drifting alone and I’d love to reach out a hand to any and all who need it.

 

FATES

We see in stories, a great deal of versions of the idea of things taking place according to an already written plan. That somewhere, at some time, some kind of all powerful being or beings started to pull stings and move pieces to guide or control all of us measly humans.

It’s an interesting idea, that all of the lives we all lead, all of the choices that we could take, have already been laid down for us by someone or something above and beyond us. From there comes two schools of thought.

It’s either good or bad.

Imagine that all of those tough decisions you’ve ever had to struggle with, the awful times you’ve spent forced to crack your head against an impossible choice. Now imagine that those choices and all of the pain and suffering that came with them, were decided by someone else and there was nothing that you could have done to do anything other than what you did? You were always going to do what you did and all of the uncertainty surrounding the choice was nothing but a waste of both time and energy. In short, you have no power. You’re nothing but a mechanism following a prescribed path and no manner of trying on your behalf will allow you to stray from the path.

On the other hand you truly get to say ‘what will be will be’. You can happily forego all of the stressed thought and go with the first thought that crosses your mind in any situation. It doesn’t matter what choices you think you’re making, they’ve already been made for you so you can just plonk along happy in the knowledge that someone else is doing all of the thinking for you and you can just smile and wave from the passenger seat.

But, if all of the events that take place are already known, that means that someone planned out all of the horrors that crash into you and how they’ll turn out. Someone decided that pain was what your life needed at exactly the worst moment. The illness and injuries. The deaths in the family and every possible nastiness has been put there deliberately because someone just fancied the idea of seeing you suffer.

As a story idea, the powers of fate offer a fantastic way to twist the narrative in any way you fancy but the thought that we’re all nothing but pawns is awful. You were always going to watch your parents suffer a drawn out illness. You were always going suffer the injuries and dark times which battered you down and you know what, maybe I won’t lean on the power of the fates in my storytelling. Giving my characters the knowledge that their lives are simply controlled from above seems almost like making them a step closer to a level of self awareness and I don’t think I could do that to them.

I WONDER. DO YOU?

It’s fair to say that all of us who enjoy reading or watching genre fiction have a reasonably stretchy imagination. We can read stories of far off lands, mythical creatures and outer space and find ourselves fully immersed in the experience. We all know that the specific details of the far off planets are nothing more than the creation of someone’s imagination but we can all let our mind soar as we try to keep pace with the words on the page.

So why is it so many people can’t?

I’ve asked a great many people about their reading choices and all kinds of answers came back detailing an almost inexhaustible supply of books which drew people in, but a very common response was that genre fiction didn’t appeal to them because they just couldn’t suspend disbelief. They may have enjoyed the potential ‘whodunnit’ aspect of a book or the descriptions of a relationship but the surrounding details of the sword and sorcery stuff just crush the connection.

So why are certain genres appealing to some and not others? Why is it that you enjoy the books you do and not others? Just how possible is it to draw people in despite a genre bias?

I ask because I’ve always wondered how to bridge gaps with people.

I look at the way my niece acts around all of the very run of the mill objects and activities and marvel at the sheer exuberance she displays as she goes about her explorations. Looking through the eyes of a cantankerous forty year old, it’s easy to forget that there was a time when everything which is commonplace was once new and exciting. My niece loves animals and the sheer delight on her face when she sees the family cat is amazing. Whether or not she thinks all animals can actually talk because they all do in her cartoons may have something to do with it but I guess we’ll never know.

Kids always seem to look at everything with an amazing wonder at the possibilities that could be before them. Games of make believe and all manner of pretending and role playing are the par for the course for kids and at no point does anyone involved think there’s anything wrong with the whole situation. All kids get stuck in and are able to envision all kinds of landscapes or activities and they see all types of possibilities around every corner.

So when do they stop?

For vast swathes of the population, there will come a time where they no longer view the world with the same wonder they once did and instead of seeing boundless possibilities reality becomes rigid and set. No longer can adventures be summoned from thin air and as such, the reading material for adults is a very different landscape. Very often there are whole genres which seem to be passed over as being only for kids but don’t we all still have that flickering flame of wonder lit inside us which can just step us out of the relative drudgery of the day to day and send us off to wherever we could imagine. When was it that so many of us put away the mind set of letting go of the ‘real’ and running around with our imagination just soaring? Why should seeing the world as filled with wondrous possibilities be so easily dismissed?

The world is an amazing place but surely that doesn’t mean we can’t add to the picture inside our own heads?

ALMOST OVER

For this post I only have a single point to make.

I feel that after the 2016 we’ve all witnessed, where division and anger seem to have exposed the gruesome heart of the human race to the light, I open my arms to everyone out there, regardless of all those defining characteristics we all cling so very tightly to, and which seem to be always pulling us apart, and say to each and every one of you,

“Let’s celebrate our humanity and do what we can to make the lives we touch every day a little bit better. Let’s make sure 2017 is the perfect antidote to what we’ll soon be leaving behind us.”

Have a good ‘un all.

CONFESSION

Welcome to the latest story from my warped little mind. I actually didn’t do too much to it from the original kernel of thought but you can be assured that you’ll recognise that which I’ve added.

I’ve heard on the radio, on TV and read in the press, of people making confessions and asking the wronged person for forgiveness many years after the event.

This is my confession.

 

I can remember, more than a few years ago, when I was much smaller than I am today, my cousin and I never really saw eye to eye. She always had everything.

Everyone has the issue right? Not just us?

She’s five years older than me and she was always the apple of our family’s eye. Nothing she did was ever wrong, even when it was, and she was given everything her heart could ever want. I got the hand-me-downs.

Almost from my first childhood memory I heard, “Didn’t you say that you wanted to have that as well?” asked by my parents as they passed down the latest object that she no longer enjoyed, gifted to them as a reminder that they weren’t as good as my cousin’s parents. It was almost worse than not having something myself, the cast offs.

Just looked like they were only ever thinking of me in terms of her rather than as being me.

So I don’t think that it could have truly come as much surprise to anyone that jealousy built in me. I’m not proud of my jealousy but can you really say that if you’d been on the receiving end of behaviour like that for as long as I had, you wouldn’t have been the same?

Eventually, after holding my younger self together for as long as I could, I’d had enough.

Visiting her house along with all manner of other people for a party or some kind of gathering in her honour, she was proudly showing off her latest prized possession, ‘Little Ted’.

Little Ted was beautiful. Little Ted was made for cuddles and my smug cousin just looked down on me as I stood and stared at her with Little Ted.

I wanted my own Little Ted.

But that was never going to happen so I thought I’d do something about it.

As I’ve already said, I always got her cast offs when she didn’t want them anymore, so I thought that now would be the perfect chance to take from her on my terms. I was the one doing the choosing.

I’m not proud of the way the green eyed monster grabbed hold of me but I just carried on with it.

There were just the three of us in the room when I decided I needed to act, she and I and Little Ted. I was going to take Little Ted for myself.

As the time passed by, all I could see was the fact I was going to have Little Ted. All of my rational mind was out of control, the green eyed monster now truly in charge.

Eventually, as the activity of the day continued, she was no doubt distracted by something else that she had that I didn’t as she played to others who were there, I saw my chance.

I bundled up Little Ted and hid him up my jumper.

Turning quickly, I walked out of the house, not meeting her eyes as I left. Surely she’d be able to see that I had something under my jumper as I left? Maybe if she’d been a little less self-absorbed, she would have done.

Happily for me, she noticed Little Ted was missing only after I’d left the house.

I heard that she’d cried and cried and screamed and cried.

I’m still not proud of the fact that I’d taken from her but she did need to see that she couldn’t just have everything she ever wanted and rub it in the faces of all around her.

But,

I wasn’t really sure, as I looked at Little Ted later in the day, that I actually wanted him.

I was scared that I’d be discovered as the taker.

 

So this is my confession after all these years.

I’m sorry I ruined your life.

I’m sorry I took your Little Ted.

I just wanted to show you that what it was like not to have everything go your way.

I tell you this now for closure for us both.

How was I supposed to know that after that day your marriage would fall apart, that you couldn’t have any more kids.

So twenty years later, your son Edward, your Little Ted, is buried in the woods by our old house.

BLOOD IS THICKER

This isn’t going to be about horror and blood, honest.

Recently I discovered some wonderful news and after the fireworks had stopped, it made me think. How often do we see some kind of family trauma as being the catalyst for the actions of a narrative?

It seems to be an easy way to create a level of engagement in the reader / viewer for whatever story you’re trying to weave together without the relative risk of having to rely on characters who are unrelated, happening to feel strongly enough about any given situation to bond in the way you need them to.

We’ve all seen the film or read the book where the main characters family is touched in some scary way and that’s what sets the narrative ball rolling. The pain that the characters feel due to the familial bond is what everyone reads and we all subconsciously recognise how that pain could move someone to embark on all manner of adventures. Because if we were confronted by the same situation concerning a family member of our own, wouldn’t we dive in as well?

My own novel, The Circle of Fire, has a strong root of family in the story and that’s one of the main reasons the central character goes along with all of the weird and wonderful action which unfolds as the story moves along. Without the connection of blood it’s more likely that rather than embark on the journey, they’d give cursory help and then turn their backs.

As a reader though, so many of the family ties in stories can explain keeping you switched on. The action would happen like that. We’d do the same in the same situation and that lends much needed credibility to almost any and all fantastical tales.

I know I refer to Star Wars quite a bit during these posts but it holds so many topics that are folded through all manner of stories, it’s a relative gold mine. Think about all of the family links that hold the films together and it’s easy to understand why things take place the way they do. Luke is desperate to get up and go but when he’s told all of the details from Obi-wan he’s reticent. It takes the rather gory demise of his aunt and uncle to nudge him in the right direction.

So we all need to have some major engagement in how things happen in stories and roping in the family is a perfect way to tug the heart strings.

And as for me, my great news is, I found out I’m going to be an uncle at the back end of this year. That’s right, the Star Wars fan becomes Uncle Owen.

I’m screwed!