Why is Breaking Tropes Good?

Sometimes tropes should be broken.

What is a trope?  In the literary sense, a trope is an often used, even over-used theme.  Perfect example – the heroine in a horror movie who runs away, only to trip while running and be brutally murdered.

Breaking TropesThese are many and varied, but comfortable and familiar.  The elder wizard with the long, white pointy beard and staff; the dashing hero, able to avoid obstacles with little or no permanent injury; the maiden in need of rescue, beautiful and feisty but still in need of saving.

Sometimes, though, breaking up these tropes is a good thing.

I believe one of the reasons many disliked The Last Jedi is because it smashes several of the better, well-worn tropes.  The biggest heroes in this movie are not the guys…it’s the women.  Between General Leia, Rose, Rey, and Vice Admiral Holdo, you get some spectacular, strong, independent women.   Sure, Finn and Poe are also heroes, but they are strongest when they come around to the thinking of their female counterparts.

Let’s be blunt – Last Jedi is NOT high art.  Frankly, nothing from Star Wars is “fine cinema”.  It IS fun storytelling, visually stunning, and overall a great turn-your-brain-off-and-enjoy-the-ride experience.

In the age of the Internet, we have reached this point where people can express opinions instantly.  They can also build bases of similar-thinking individuals, and together attack the things that upset them.  Sometimes this is for good, such as protesting injustice in government and such.  Other times, it’s not, like spreading and sharing so-called “facts” such as the debunked autism/vaccination link.

Along those lines, there have been actions taken to take people down a peg whom some disagree with.  Perfect example is Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars Aftermath series.  Because of a gay character, certain internet trolls went nuts.

Tropes can be a good starting point

After years of wanting to write a sci-fi story, an idea finally popped into my head.  I had something that was going to be fun to write, and an opportunity to create some pretty awesome characters, worlds, and spacecraft.

Early on, I wanted to toss in a lot of different forms of government.  So I created a sector that was a Kingdom.  But when I first started to write it, I decided to break from the normal trope of a King and Queen…and instead created a Queen and Queen.

This is a space opera.  They have a son whom genetic engineering allowed them to create from both of their DNA.  And, just to make it more fun, they are not a pair of young and stunningly beautiful women…they’re in their late 30’s early 40’s.

One of my other characters got semi-inspired by Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who.  While not one to openly seek relations, we learn that he is omnisexual.  Men, women, non-humans.  If there is mutual attraction and interest and consent, he might just go there.

As I developed the characters, I created a race with no gender.  I even had to create gender-neutral pronouns for them.  My spellcheck hates this.

I have gone to some trouble to describe my alien species.  Many are more-or-less humanoid, two arms, two legs, one head and so on.  But several are not.  There is a race that are gelatinous.  Another that are sort-of centaurs. I wanted to help the readers visualize them as I have been.  It’s a lot of fun to create such things.

Ignoring the typical tropes can be fun.

But when it came to my humans, I made a choice.  I mention male versus female.  In one or two instances I think I mention height or body-type.  But apart from that, I give no descriptions of my humans.  Why?  Because I want my readers to be able to envision them however they like.  I want them to be able to see them with any skin-color, eye-shape, hair color or whatever they choose.

As I dream about being able to sell the movie rights to this story one day, anybody can be cast as one of my humans.  They could be black, Asian, Hispanic, Arabic, Hindi, Native-American, white, mixed, whatever.  Diversity of characters from a diverse universe.

There are certain people who want their tropes unchanged.  White guys rescuing damsels in distress and such.  I think the time has come to break these tropes, and see what kinds of new twists we can put on old stories.

Sharing My Love of the Written Word for the Holidays

I have always been a fan of the written word.

I started reading at a young age, and when my family began to get shaken up, I think I probably escaped into books a lot.

Writing has always come easily to me.  Genre, topic, doesn’t entirely matter to me.  When I get to put words to the page or screen, I find that I am in my element.

For a time, I avoided embracing calling myself a writer.  The written word never lost its importance to me, but I found myself spending far less time honing my craft.

Then, something changed.  In the late 1990’s, an idea popped into my head, and my series The Source Chronicles came to life.

For a short time I managed to land an agent, but Fantasy was not his familiar genre.  So we didn’t really go anywhere.

Then my friend suggested I have a real editor go over my first completed fantasy novel, then titled Seeker of The Source.  She not only helped me turn my novel into a much more coherent, solidly voiced story – she also made me a far better writer and editor.  Her instruction helped me to make some fundamental changes in my approach, and with that a far better writer.

I was fortunate that a friend was editing an anthology of short stories about pirates and magic.  I seized upon this awesome opportunity, and wrote A Treacherous Stone, which was published in Rum and RunestonesWhen the second anthology, Spells and Swashbuckers was being assembled, I created The Vapor Rogues.

Times and technology have changed, and while I continued seeking an agent or publisher, I decided it was time to strike out on my own.  I stated by taking the first year of my main blog post, and published Pathwalking: A 21st Century Philosophy.

I have continued to blog three times a week at The Ramblings of The Titanium Don.  Not long ago I refocused my posts to all address the ideology that consciousness creates reality.  Mondays I present Positivity, Wednesdays I write Pathwalking, and Friday Crossing the Bridges.

Once I had dipped my toe into the waters of self-publishing, I decided to share with the world Seeker – The Source Chronicles Book I.  A year later, after having it edited, I shared Finder – The Source Chronicles Book II.

When I wrote The Vapor Rogues for Spells and Swashbucklers, I did a huge amount of worldbuilding.  This was not just Steampunk from an alternate Victorian reality, but a wholly unique world I created.  With all that worldbuilding, I needed to write more.  From that came Clouds of Authority : A Vapor Rogues Novel.

On several occasions, I have participated in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo.  This is where you are challenged to write 50,000 words in 30 days every November.  I have succeeded several times with this.  One year it was my fantasy/Steampunk Infamy Ascending, another year my technothriller Shades of Mediocrity.

Two of the stories I wrote for NaNoWriMo I have published.  First, my homage to Paulo Coelho, Vortex Pilgrimage, an embellishment of my hikes around Sedona, AZ.  And then a deeply personal story, a humorous narrative of the time in my life when I was recovering from being struck by a car while crossing a street.  The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Trip to the Post Office is all stuff that happened to me, but all the names have been changed.

The written word is my passion, my heart and soul.  I am working on my blog every week, and new stories to share with the world.  With the holidays being upon us, is there a better gift than the written word to share with friends and loved ones?

I hope you enjoy what I present here to you.  Thank you for your support!

 

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What Am I Thankful For This Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving means different things to different people.

Thanksgiving postYes, we could get into all kinds of discussions about celebrating a piece of history that has all sorts of twists and turns.  Certainly we can examine the faults of the Pilgrims and the awful things that happened to the Native Americans.  But I would much rather look at this as a day to celebrate abundance and gratitude.

There are many things for which I am thankful, and today I want to change my usual pace when I post here, and share them with you.

I am thankful that I have my health.

Thankful for my wife and family, and chosen family, whom I love.

I am thankful for my friends.

Despite our horrific President and awful Congress, I am thankful to live in a (still mostly) free country.

I am thankful that I have the opportunities that I do.

For my writing skills and creativity I am extremely thankful.

For the abundant Universe and ability to employ Consciousness to Create Reality, I am enormously thankful.

Last, but certainly not least, I am thankful for you, for reading these words and helping me achieve my dreams.

We live in interesting times, arguably in the sense of the classic Chinese curse.  But we have the ability to choose what to make of the world we live in.  Each of us has the ability to build an amazing life.  We are empowered to do far more than we usually acknowledge.  I don’t know that I can completely express my gratitude for that.

Thanksgiving ThankfulOn this Thanksgiving, I strive to be truly grateful for all the amazing people and things in my life.  Though this can be challenging sometimes, it is important.  I want to thank you for coming along on this journey with me.

Thank You!

What Do I Name This Thing?

Sometimes it takes me a while to find the name.

When I first began work on The Source Chronicles, it was my unnamed Fantasy project.  I began my glossary so I could track the characters, and I called it The Source.  This would, in turn, lead me to find the plot, whereby my mysterious sorcerer was questing to find an ancient something called The Source.  He would be called the Seeker.

Seeker of The Source  would be completed, and I had even acquired an agent to shop it around.  But he was not normally an agent for YA or Fantasy, and after I think two years, we ended our association.  Then it was suggested I hire Lone to edit my work, and my writing would never be the same.

I am a far better writer and editor today because of all I learned from Lone’s edit of Seeker.  Further, since I was already done with Book 2 and starting on Book 3, she suggested I give the overall series a name.  With a suggestion from my best friend Kristin, The Source Chronicles  was born.  Seeker of The Source  became Seeker – The Source Chronicles Book I

Lone and I have long since lost touch, but I found an editor for both Finder – The Source Chronicles Book II, and Clouds of Authority, my Steampunk novel (and first book of The Vapor Rogues series).  But for Harbinger, which covers a great deal of characters and time, I am beginning to work with a new editor.  Thus far, I suspect she may also help me to grow as a writer and editor.

In addition to regular blogging over at The Ramblings of the Titanium Don, and editing Harbinger, I have been working on an epic sci-fi adventure.

The Space-Opera with No-Name.

I have been working on this sci-fi opus for more than a year.  I have created an incredible number of characters, worlds, starships, races, and many unique names.  There have been battle scenes, character development, plotting, and both the use and rejection of numerous tropes.  This is the kind of sci-fi I would love to watch on a screen, and it’s a whole lot of fun to write.

Yet after all this time, a name eludes me.  Sure, it took me some time to come up with Seeker’s original name, but I do not recall it taking me this long.  I wait to be inspired, to find the title that will not only excite me, but entice you to want to read it.

Drawing by MJ Blehart

There was a professor of mine in college who said every name an author creates has meaning.  From my own work, I can tell you that this is bullshit.  Certainly there are writers who place meaning in names, and that is a part of their mystique.  But many of us simply create names out of randomness.  That’s how I work, at any rate.

The title of the novel is important.  If it turns out this is going to be a series, or I feel the need to create other stories in the same universe – and I might – the series will need a name as well.  On the one hand, this can be somewhat frustrating.  But on the other hand, this is part of the fun of writing in general.

Eventually I’ll also have to work out cover art, but that won’t be for a while.  So far, I have drawn the top-view of one of the main starships in the series, and I will eventually find an artist to render this better than I can.

A rose by any other name…

Names have power.  How many tales are out there where someone hides their “true name” so as not to give away their power?  It’s an intriguing concept, really, because we humans are almost obsessed with giving things names.

I write because I feel a need, akin to breathing, eating and drinking.  Writing is a part of who I am.  I am signed up for an online group and class to improve how I work and earn as a writer, and will likely post something about that down the line.  There is always work to be done.

I know that eventually I will have a name for this novel.  There is always a name to be found.

Thank you for staying abreast of my work.

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How Do I Earn a Living This Way?

I want to earn a living wage through writing.

Yet for most of my life, I have been told that this is a pipe dream.  Various people have told me that to earn money as an author is tricky at best.  I should be realistic.  It’s important I recognize that I still need to hold down a day job.  Most writers never earn enough to make their living off this.

MJ BlehartI do know a number of other writers who have day jobs.  They do something that earns them their primary salary, and the writing is a side-gig, but still their true passion.  There is no doubt in my mind that to write for money is not easy.

I have had two short stories published in anthologies by a small press.  There are multiple novels I have placed on Amazon in both book and Kindle form, covering the genres of fantasy, sci-fi/Steampunk, humorous autobiographical narrative, and a hard-to-define fiction akin to the work of Paulo Coelho.  I sell a few here and there, but my monthly earnings at best currently might buy me a single meal at a decent restaurant.

Because I firmly believe that Consciousness Creates Reality, I am certain that I can manifest the life I want.  I’ve never been meant to work in an office space.  Frankly, working in an office frequently goes badly for me.  I am simply not a very good drone.

Perfect example.  At a job years ago, they told us that if we had suggestions for improvements to make them.  Well, I did.  They didn’t want to hear it.  Wasn’t long before I was out.

Focus and concentration are required to earn this way.

While it is important to develop tools to better market what I have already published, and to that end I read a bunch and partake in webinars.  But for me, the real matter is maintaining my focus and concentration.  Eyes on the prize, as they say, if I want to get there.

More than once I have consciously created the reality I desired through focus on no other outcome but success at my goal.  I defied odds and manifested my reality.  With real focus and concentration, I can take the thought, feel it out, and act to make it happen.

I am aware this can come across as hippy-dippy, hooky-spooky, new-agey bullshit.  Yet because I have successfully done it before, I know that I can do it again.

The trick is singular focus.  I have to keep my eyes on the prize, and not allow myself to be distracted by what other people think, or my own issues with my abilities and skills.  It’s important that I not allow myself to sabotage myself.

I write my three blog posts to The Ramblings of the Titanium Don weekly.  Further, I intend to work to post to this webpage more frequently as I strive to make more progress as a writer.  To that end, I participated in a webinar today to learn some new skills to make more of my career as a writer, and I am continuing to put the work in to go where I want to go.

Nothing worth having is ever easy.  There are many ways in which this is going to force me out of my comfort zones.  But I know that I can do this.  Thank you for coming along on my travels.

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How Am I Breaking from Typical Story Tropes?

It’s fun to break away from the typical story tropes.

For years I have wanted to write a sci-fi “space opera”.  An epic along the lines of a Star Wars or a Star Trek, but as unique as I could make it.

One of the problems you face with these things is that there have been numerous epics created.  Beyond Star Wars and Star Trek, you get Babylon 5, Farscape, Firefly, and on and on.

Star Wars happened “A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.”  As such, the humans are not from Earth.  I like this idea a great deal, and rather than rehash all of the sci-fi books, movies and TV shows where the Humans are from Earth in the future, my humans come from somewhere else.

This opens up a great deal of options for my sci-fi.  I can create star systems, worlds and alien races with no ties to anything but my own imagination.

One of the things I most love about sci-fi and fantasy is that there are few actual rules.  Yes, with sci-fi you need at least vague plausibility in your technobabble and such.  Fantasy, however, has no actual rules.  You can do whatever you want, when all is said and done.

Playing with 21st Century tropes.

One of the things I loved about The Force Awakens and Rogue One was the ways they took a new approach to things.  The main characters were not white guys, but women and ethnically diverse actors.  They were all strong, mixed characters both likeable and not, and added a new dimension to the series.

Along the same line, Chuck Wendig defied the norms with several of his characters in his Star Wars: Aftermath series.  In all of these instances, several people lost their minds, and got upset because for whatever reason they think sci-fi is supposed to focus on white male heroes.

Drawing by MJ Blehart

This is the 21st century.  Sci-fi in the past broke many barriers along the way.  The original Star Trek provided the first interracial kiss on television.  Given many of our modern societies’ issues, I applaud taking new approaches to the material.

As I began to write my sci-fi epic, I took several different steps to my approach.  First, my humans are not well described.  Male, female, and maybe at some point a reference to height, but I never reveal their hair color or skin tone or any other descriptives.  As such, my reader can imagine them however they choose.  It is all open to interpretation.

Further, I figure if they ever make a movie of this, ANYBODY could be cast in any role.

I give a lot more attention to my aliens.  But that’s because they need more description.  One race, however, has no gender definitions.  As such, I even invented new pronouns for them.

As if I wasn’t having enough fun with my story, I made a few other choices.  One of my primary characters is a middle-aged lesbian woman.  Another is a thirty-something omnisexual male (omnisexual because he has no preference not just regarding straight or gay, but towards non-humans).  Mind you, there is no sex in the novel (I feel no need to write sex scenes) but the topic gets discussed among the characters.  My aliens are not all humanoid in appearance, and even those that are may be sexually compatible, but cannot reproduce together.

Writing is joy.

I have had the desire to write a sci-fi epic space-opera for some time now.  I am thrilled to be playing with this story, and looking forward to completing and sharing it soon.

What am I Currently Working on?

I began to work on my fantasy series, The Source Chronicles, in 1997.

I was at work, bored, and tapped out this scene that popped into my head.  Then, two more scenes were written, and now I had three main characters, and the story began to take shape.

As I worked on the novel I first called Seeker of The Source, my characters took on qualities and identities I had not entirely expected them to.  Before I knew it, I ran into a major dilemma.  My villain ceased to be the bad guy.

My best friend from High School and I had a conversation when I was blocked, and he made a point that opened the channels, and the story continued.  In time, Seeker of the Source was completed.

I edited this, to a point, and moved on.  The prophecy I had written was broken into four parts, and I knew that meant there would be four books.  I began to write Finder of The Source.

I had acquired for a time an agent.  He did his best, but frankly when he took me on I was outside his normal genre.  This made it very hard to get where I wanted to go, and in time we parted ways.

Editors can change everything.

Lone was a friend of a friend.  She is a professional writer and editor, and agreed to edit Seeker of The Source.  At this point, Finder of The Source was also completed, and I had begun to work on Harbinger of The Source.

Lone did more than just edit my novel.  She taught me so much about the craft of writing, as well as how to edit writing, that my work would never be the same.

She taught me to choose a singular narrative, rather than jumping between characters without a break of some sort.  Lone gave me insight into better world building, and the series got renamed The Source Chronicles  (which is partially credited to Kristin, the friend who introduced Lone and I).   She taught me how to do better sentence structure, stronger character actions, and more.  Overall, I became a far better writer and editor, and cannot express how much this has meant to me over the years.

Since publishing the first two novels in The Source Chronicles, Seeker and Finder, I have continued to work on the series.  Deep into Harbinger, it occurred to me that it would be a long, long novel.  As such, I split it up, and Guardians was born.  The prophecy received an edit, adding a fifth section to match the revised number of planned novels.

Two years after publishing Finder, and more than that after taking a break from The Source Chronicles to work on The Vapor Rogues, my Steampunk series, and the as-yet untitled sci-fi epic I’m currently working on, I returned to Harbinger to start editing, before I send it off to a professional.

I have concluded my edits.  One of the most fascinating aspects of this process was finding where what I had learned from Lone got employed in Harbinger.  It was a subtle shift, but I saw it rather clearly.

Writing is a practice.

Once I send Harbinger off to an editor (and I am looking for a new editor), I intend to continue work on the sci-fi novel.  I also intend to continue Guardians, where I left off about five years ago.  My goal is to have it complete within 2 more years, and then the final novel of the series, Healers, will be written.

I am striving to do as much writing as I can.  In addition to my work on my novels, I blog three times a week at The Ramblings of The Titanium Don – my blog about Conscious Reality Creation.  Positivity, Pathwalking, and Crossing the Bridges between the worlds I live in and have created along the way.

I will set up an e mail subscription service to this blog soon.  Thank you for tagging along on my writing adventures.  Welcome, also, to my new and improved website.